“Respect all reasonable forms of activity in which the child engages and try to understand them.” — Maria Montessori

Imagine that it’s a beautiful Saturday. Your child had spent the afternoon playing happily at his friend’s house and you’ve just arrived to take him home. From the look on your child’s face, you know he is not going to part ways easily. Bracing for the worst, and already beginning to feel the embarrassment, you announce “It’s time to go home.” His face falls and the mighty meltdown follows. We’ve all been there.

Mounting Moments of Emotion

Naturally, a young child’s inability to fully express himself can lead to moments of intense emotion and frustration. For example, think of interrupting him when he is laser-focused on an activity. He may be climbing stairs, lining toys in a row, spilling water while trying to fill a cup or playing happily with a friend. Regardless, it becomes necessary to ask him to stop.

Although not always obvious to the adult, these repetitive activities have a purpose. They are important to the child and to his development. As he becomes immersed in an activity, he becomes less open to change. He is engaged in his environment and “work” and an interruption can be met with resistance and trigger a tantrum. With our busy lives, and despite our best intentions, we often misread the root of the young child’s emotional release.

Respectful Warning

Whenever possible, the adult should give the child a respectful warning, and with clear boundaries, before a change in routine or a transition. For example, “We are going to leave Riley’s house in five minutes.” Next, offer him a choice to help him feel he has some control over the situation. “Would you like to help me set the timer on my watch or my phone?”  Not only will he feel respected and a bit more in control, he just may leave waving instead of flailing. 😉

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