In the video below, Kathy Frost and I make connections between Attachment Theory in psychology (her thing), the Montessori method (my thing), and mimetic theory (our shared thing!). We talk about the openness of children to the influences of their environment, an awareness that all three paradigms share. “Environment” includes everything, but material things first of all. Sights, smells, tastes, sounds and textures all shape the child through their physical interaction with them.
Of course, adults are part of the environment, too, and how we engage with children has a profound effect on their development. Mirror neurons are active as children learn by observing how adults are acting in the environment. Children observe us and then they try it themselves, practicing until they become perfect. We offer two concrete examples of this: riding bikes and blowing noses!
We discuss how important it is to realize that the help we offer our children can actually hinder their pursuit of new skills and stifle independence. Kathy explains the Circle of Security, a great video that explains the need children have for both security and freedom. This synchs well with Montessori’s insight that the aim of any help we offer “should be to help the child help himself.” She cautions that “the adult becomes an obstacle when he tries to do himself what should be done by the child, to do what in fact can only be done by the child.”
Kathy and I hope our discussion helps you relax more as a parent. As Kathy wrote to me in an email, “We’ll have millions of interactions with our kids, and with many of these interactions we’ll not be at our best (and even far from it). But as respected psychoanalyst Donald Winnecott said, we just need to be ‘good enough.’” What a relief! We’d love to hear your stories of life with your children. Join the conversation here or on The Montessori Project Facebook page.
Kathy Frost is a social psychologist teaching at St. Joseph’s College, New York. Kathy and Suzanne currently serve on the board of the Colloquium on Violence and Religion, dedicated to the exploration of René Girard’s mimetic theory.