The Rational Basis® of Happiness Podcast

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The importance of encouraging your child's independence - a short interview with parenting coach Cornelia Lockitch

 (this is raw unedited text transcribed directly from the audio)

Movie clip

Woman:           Would you like some cake?

Child:               I'm not supposed to.

Woman:           Don't worry so much about "not supposed to." Live a little.


Dr. Kenner:      That's from the movie Chocolat, a fabulous movie. And think about your own childhood - were there times, or did you have a mother or a father or maybe a grandmother who just tried to put you in a straightjacket? It was like the straightjacket view of life. You couldn't breathe. You always had to watch, am I sitting properly? Am I chewing properly? Am I eating properly? Well, how do you parent? How do you not make the mistake of putting your kids in a straightjacket and not make the opposite mistake either of being hands-off and - my kids can do whatever they want - and really being parents who are relatively indifferent to your kids. You just let them do whatever they want. With me today is Cornelia Lockich, and she has her Master's in Education and she's been a Montessori teacher for 10 years. Her specialty is with preschoolers and toddlers. But listen up, because the principles that she talks about with preschoolers or toddlers you can apply to older kids and you even will be able to apply to maybe your spouse and other people in your life. How do you end up enjoying parenting - that's our topic - rather than regretting that you ever had kids? Welcome Cornelia.


Cornelia:          Hi Ellen. Thank you so much for having me.


Dr. Kenner:      Thank you for being on the show. Talk a little bit about the Montessori method. That's your training.


Cornelia:          Yes it is. Montessorians often describe their method as an aid to life. Now, Dr. Montessori identified that within every child is the adult that he is going to become, so childhood is that time period when the new adult is being created. Our goal as teachers and as parents is to help the unfolding of that process to the utmost. Or in Montessori language, we say to help the child reach his fullest potential. What that means is, we want him to discover his strongest values, his favorite subjects, that he can make good choices, and that we're there to encourage him where he feels weakest and just generally help him to be the best that he can be.


Dr. Kenner:      I wish I had a Montessori education. Because it builds confidence because they're learning how to make their own choices, it sounds like, and you're not telling them what they should do, what they should value in life. Whether it's �you have to go to soccer. I love soccer. I was in soccer. You have to go to soccer,� to your kid. It's more, �What do you enjoy?� You introduce them to multiple different hobbies and then you let them choose.


Cornelia:          That is how Dr. Montessori designed her multi-age classrooms, where there are specially designed materials that essentially guide the children in the basic areas of study. So language development, math, geography, music, etc. The children have freedom of choice and freedom of movement within the classroom to choose of their repertoire of activities that they've been shown.


Dr. Kenner:      And they learn amazingly, quickly. I just remember with my own kids, they went to a Montessori school, that they learned to read at a young age, and then my son had to break away from a Montessori school and one of his new teachers in preschool - he had gone to Montessori school very young � said, "Oh no, you never should have taught him to read until some teeth came in, certain teeth." And she was teaching him all about fairies and fairy tales and, no, these kids can learn amazingly well. You are now a parenting coach and you have a website that is where you have three simple child management secrets that Montessori teachers know, and no parent should be without. Your website is What are one or two ways, Cornelia, that you benefited from the Montessori method with your own daughter?


Cornelia:          You know, in many ways it surprised me when I was a new mom, how much my Montessori background guided me. Even when my daughter was an infant, I felt like the discoveries that I had and the understanding I had from Montessori guided me in understanding her better. For example, Dr. Montessori identified sensitive periods in a child's life. These are times when a child focuses on a certain skill almost to the exclusion of all others. So when, for example, my child started to wake up seven times a night because she had discovered how to stand up in her crib, it became easier to understand � not less tiring to deal with of course � but almost reasonable and admirable because you can see the determination in her and just the drive to grow and improve and expand her sphere of influence in her life.


Dr. Kenner:      Rather than saying, �I can't believe she's up again. She's driving me crazy. I don't know why I ever had kids and I need to discipline her and I need to yell at her or spank her.�


Cornelia:          That she's being bad or something.


Dr. Kenner:      Instead, if you see this as your fresh vision of parenting, you see it as she's learning to stand and she's practicing and she's so energized. Look at her! Still, as you say, it's very tired, so hopefully you and your hubby will take turns going in.


Cornelia:          You always need help!


Dr. Kenner:      Tell me, why can't you just go by gut feelings as a parent?


Cornelia:          Well, going by gut feelings really leaves you without, in a way, without anything up your sleeve to help you in those times of frustration and to help you read your child. Those young kids, before they're verbal especially, can be very hard to understand. It's full of misinterpretation that I think gets parents into conflicts that are otherwise avoidable.


Dr. Kenner:      I've heard parents say to me, �You know, my toddler is just like my ex.� Awful. How can your toddler be just like your ex? They're developing their own mind. They don't even know about horseback riding or other values in life and you're saying that they're a bad person, just like your ex. We project onto kids. �My son is turning out just like my father was.� They are what, 1-year-old? 


Cornelia:          Exactly. Or, �He never listens to me,� when he brings things in the house from outside to show you that he's not supposed to bring in. My idea is instead of approaching that from, �He never listens to me,� which just leads to a reaction and instead, I guide parents to stop, observe, take a little time to think about and assess what is he really doing? Is he collecting things for some reason? Is he showing you something special he found outside? What's going on?


Dr. Kenner:      Tuning into your child much more. Listen, we're down to the last minute. Parenting is a learned skill, and when you have the wrong teacher, you learn the wrong methods.