Monday, October 18, 2010

Attachment Parenting and Montessori

I am a Montessori inspired attachment parent. At first it probably seems these two ideas oppose each other. How are you "attached" yet promoting independence in your child? But in my interpretation, Montessori education is an extension of my attachment parenting for at least one reason.

Both follow the child.

In fact, I would argue that following the cues and needs of your child is the ONLY tenant of attachment parenting. Dr. Sears, the leading authority on attachment parenting has the 7 Baby Bs, but they all have the baby's needs at heart. You trust your child to tell you what he or she needs; you respect a crying baby as a person who needs something. And you attend to those needs appropriately. You could follow none of the "Baby Bs" and if it was truly based on a deep connection with what your child was telling you through their cries and behavior, you are an attached parent.

By the time your child is two or three, most of the things you "do" as an attachment parent are done. Your baby is weaned, is able to walk and doesn't want to be worn, may have even moved into their own bedroom (not my child, lol) and is ready to assert his or her independence. A true attachment parent would read these cues and respond to their child's changing needs. Attachment parenting isn't about "babying" a toddler, it's about babying a baby who is unable to be independent.

It's about being child focused instead of parent focused. Which is really the magic of Montessori. The method not about independence, independence is the end result of giving a child exactly what they need to grow. Montessori doesn't throw children into an adult world and expect them to take care of themselves. It observes the needs and abilities of individuals, waits for their readiness and leads them with just the right amount of help along the way.

Montessori and attachment parenting are based on the same basic principle. That children know their needs, have an instinct to progress into functional individuals and if you give them what they need when they need it they will grow into the best version of themselves.

Would Maria Montessori advocate attachment parenting? Probably not. But I don't see conflict in these approaches. They both feel right to me and have influenced Ryann's growth in positive ways. Which is what being an attachment parent is all about.


  1. (I just tried to leave a comment, but I think blogger ate it... so will try again).

    Have you read this blog post?

    Maria may not have condoned, say, sharing a family bed (but then again, maybe she would have...) but I think a lot of the basic principles of AP are VERY similar to Montessori philosophy (respect the child, follow their cues, work WITH the child rather than forcing them to fit into your adult world or imposing rigid rules on them, etc) and I would imagine she would have agreed with them wholeheartedly. Also, as the above link points out, in The Absorbent Mind Maria Montessori talks about cultures in which the mother breastfeeds for 2+ years and, because she must remain close to the baby always to be able to breastfeed, carries the child with her everywhere in a sling or wrap. Montessori pointed out how these babies tend to be very calm, and learn so much about the world because they are immersed in it while accompanying their mother in her daily chores and work.

    Fostering independence is important, but my understanding is that even Montessori advocated needing to foster a safe and secure environment and foundation with the child, so that they do feel comfortable reaching out and exploring beyond it. That secure foundation is laid down in infancy and early childhood.

  2. Oh, thank you for that post Marcy, it's incredibly interesting! As she says, Montessori's views on infanthood are often glossed over so it's hard to get a read on what she would think. If she even really HAD a viewpoint as I think she did almost all her work with the preschool and up set. I think it's worthwhile to look at the methods you use to secure a child in their infancy though and see if they really are leading towards independence and personal growth rather than just what is good for the adults at the time.

  3. So well said!! I was led to this post through the "Sew Liberated" blog, and I am glad to have found it!! As a Montessori toddler teacher - with a 2 year old - I find it so challenging to find a balance between Montessori practices and real life!!! Wonderful post, thank you!

  4. Thanks for your comment, Danielle! I think the home environment is extremely different from the classroom and it can be hard to juggle household needs with children's needs, definitely!

  5. Terrific post. My daughter is 15 months old and I'm finally starting to come into my own as a mother, and have discovered that I'm very much an attached mom (before I even knew what that was!) and that Montessori feels right to me, too. But, like you said, it's hard to delve into the world of Montessori and find helpful ways to introduce the principles and activities in a real-life way, especially for those of us without any training. Do you have any suggestions for good reading for the total Montessori novice?

  6. I have been an attachment parent and Montessori at school and at home mama to my three children for the past eight years. I think that they are a perfect fit for each other and it's the language that we use and the symbols that they may hold that create misconceptions and mis-manifestations of the intent behind both perspectives

    For example I "live" in a tight knit community of AP families that homeschool, Montessori, waldorf, etc. but I have only recently come to know what it means, to know and what an attached child looks like beyond toddlerhood. I thought that if I did this fanastic job of APing my children as per Dr. Sears that the result would be an attached child and that anything " off" was the result of the Childs personality, culture or whatever. My husband and I took an eight week workshop on Gordon Neufeld's book. HOLD ON TO YOUR KIDS. Wow fantastic, I feel like I really know on a much deeper level what and how attachment truly is. I even get my other relationships a lot better to.

    I have also taken Montessori classes for parents, which has enhanced my parenting from that perspective as well

    I guess the point is..... That to work from any framework you should endeavor to get to know it on a deeper level and to look past the words we use like independence and attachment to see the true intentions behind them

  7. Thank you for sharing your thoughts on this!

    I just had to say that I completely agree - Montessori and AP are harmonious. I'm a trained Montessori teacher and homeschooling mother to my 4 year old, and we're expecting #2 in August (with whom I will breastfeed/co-sleep/babywear) - we love AP and Montessori and found it to be the perfect balance in our home.