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'Peaceful Children Peaceful Homes' Promotes Success, Minimizes Conflict

Added Feb 2, 2012

From time to time parents of young children have trouble striking a balance between what they expect a child to do and what that child is actually capable of accomplishing on his or her own. Often, when there's a disconnect between the two conflict ensues and peace goes out the window.

Dr. Catherine McTamaney, Curriculum Director for Christopher Academy The Montessori School, with campuses in both Scotch Plains and Westfield, will present "Peaceful Children Peaceful Homes" at 7 p.m. today and again at 10 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 4, at the Westfield campus to address how to create an environment in which everyone is successful.

"The crux of the presentation is that if you create environments in which children's natural development is responded to then you end up with environments that are a lot less conflict-driven," McTamaney said. "Most of the times when we have problems with our kids it's because we're asking them to do things that either they're incapable of doing or aren't really developmentally-appropriate expectations."

McTamaney, a Christopher Academy alumna and the author of the award-winning collection of essays 'The Tao of Montessori,' said many times parents are asking children to do things at hectic times of the day, such as the early morning, that they really can't do without help.

"A 3 year-old may not be able to zip his coat alone right now but if you give them a little more time or if you say, 'I'll get it started for you and then you pull it up' then there's sort of a magic middle ground between challenging our kids and hopefully keeping them feeling like they're successful and learning new things and there's less opportunity for conflict," she said.

McTamaney said while her presentation is geared toward parents of children ages 2 through 6, the principles can apply to a wider age range as well. Her ideas are very much rooted in the Montessori method that advocates for a peaceful yet stimulating environment.

"Even way back 100 years ago when Montessori herself was lecturing to her teachers, she would really emphasize if you're asking kids to do things they're not developmentally able to do, you're asking them to fail," McTamaney said. "You really can't be frustrated with a child if the expectation that you had was wrong. You should be frustrated with yourself as an adult or you should look to increase your bag of tricks.

"What I want to encourage parents to do is have a really deep understanding of what's quirky about children's development—how is it that children are really very different from adults, in how they process the world, in how they communicate what they need, and how they respond to stress—so we can create environments that are responsive to how children really learn and grow and not what we expect other adults to be able to do."

McTamaney will spend the first 30 to 40 minutes of the presentation talking about topics from her field of expertise. She will then answer questions from parents.

"The very best questions are those that come from families about their kids," she said. "It opens up an opportunity for me to talk to people about other things about children's development. It kind of places it in a context. We have two hours scheduled for the event so I think most of it is going to be 'So, what's actually happening at your house?'"

A member of the faculty at Vanderbilt University's Peabody College where she also serves as Director of Undergraduate Studies for the Department of Teaching and Learning, McTamaney shared the top three things she believes are key to maintaining a peaceful and productive home.

1) Create an environment that is developmentally responsive to your kids,  where what you're asking of them is within their ability. Then, always push them a little bit farther to always expand that ability.

2) When things go wrong, look to yourself as the adult to figure out "How could I have communicated what I needed differently?" or "How could I have changed this environment to make it more likely for my child to succeed?" Take some responsibility as adults to say, if I want to have a joyful, peaceful home, am I modeling that?

3) Just like adults, children are getting a steady stream of information all day long. It can be incredibly stimulating but it can also make us feel like we're in overdrive. We have to give ourselves a little bit of grace. If we set "good" parenting as the goal and not "perfect" parenting then it also models for our children how to learn and grow in a way that is positive.

"It's always fun to talk to parents about their kids," McTamaney said. "You get to talk to people about their very favorite topic. That's a great way to spend the night." 

The event is free and open to the public. To attend, please RSVP to or call 908-322-4652.


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