Message from the Principal

Dear Parents and Caregivers,

In this message, I share with you a video and some practical options to help us focus on the behavioural work occuring at CMS, and the roles we can each play in a child’s journey towards independence and responsibility.

Children invest significant energy into exploring social norms and boundaries. They test how they feel when they push limits, when they breach boundaries, and they seek from their guides(peers, family and teachers) the constructive feedback necessary to form good behavioural choices and make corrections where necessary.

Dr. Montessori suggests,

“The child must see for himself what he can do, and it is important to give him not only the means of education but also to supply him with indicators which tell him his mistakes……The child’s interest in doing better, and his own constant checking and testing, are so important to him that his progress is assured. His very nature tends toward exactitude and the ways of obtaining it appeal to him.”
This is where behavioural role modelling, constructive feedback given with mutual respect, and Grace and Courtesy lessons provide real strengths in a Montessori environment; lessons that explore how a child thinks about and navigates social structures, collaboration, conflict and peace.

Further, that from the age of six,

“…the child begins to become conscious of right and wrong, this not only regards his own actions, but also the actions of others… moral consciousness is being formed and this leads later to the social sense.”
(The Absorbent Mind, p177-229)

At CMS, we especially want to guide our children to identify these learning cues and become responsible for their choices, including any consequences that may affect them or others. This means, as staff and parents, we must not shy away from respectful conversations about expected or developing behaviours. We must partner as adults in the lives of CMS children to guide them peacefully through repetition and constructive feedback, on how to be responsible for and how to correct poor behavioural choices. One of the greatest gifts we can give our children is the ability to develop their internal voice and their confidence through struggle and achievement, not false praise or silence. This means exploring mistakes as learning opportunities, ours and those of our children, resisting the temptation to nag or rescue in times of ‘safe failure’, and providing opportunities to own and solve problems in this safe environment.

This doesn’t mean that children won’t fall out of a tree, get pushed over, skin a knee, get called a name by another student or even inflict negative behaviours onto others at times. These are normal developmental occurrences in school settings, as hard as they may be to observe or to hear about at the time. However at CMS, we work hard as a collegial team to ensure opportunities for learning are as abundant as those natural experiences themselves, that negative experiences do not continue into harmful cycles and that we provide CMS children with opportunities to develop skills to avoid and overcome adverse situations. We know we are educating responsible young people who solve problems and take care of themselves in the real world, commensurate with their developmental plane. We truly believe they can do it! All they need are the occasions to practice, the repetition of struggling through safe problems and the opportunities to receive constructive feedback along the way, in the same way as they work with the classroom materials for their academic development.

In this context, please partner with us to prevent children from feeling helpless through receiving too much help as well. Please have children walk/run down the path into school, as opposed to carrying them, let them hold their own bags, let them figure out their problems with empathy and constructive feedback as opposed to rescuing. We always have the choice to take away a child’s problem and do things for them, or we can allow safe consequences to provide natural lessons. Children deserve to surprise us with their robustness, resilience and mutual respect on their journeys toward independence and responsibility.

I recently received a short documentary video about atypical playgrounds in New York City and London that demonstrate this principle in action beautifully. I hope you enjoy the video, review the associated article and consider how and when we might ‘step back’ further.

Additionally, Dr. Jim Fay has the following suggestions for us about ‘stepping back’ and ‘stepping in’ to provide constructive feedback. Dr. Fay is a co-founder of ‘The Love and Logic Institute’, co-author of the bestseller ‘Parenting with Love and Logic’ and a highly-regarded presenter in the fields of parenting, positive discipline and classroom management.

  • The question we want our children to ask themselves is “How is the next decision I make going to affect me?”
  • Kids who have parents who make all decisions for them don’t learn how to make their own decisions. Then, when they need to make a decision, they make it not based on what is right but on who is going to find out, how that person will react, and how they can hide it from that person.”
  • Kids need to feel they have an investment in something in order to take it seriously.
  • Kids need to understand that trust is about making and keeping agreements. The more agreements kept, the more trust is built. The more agreements that are not kept, the more trust is broken down and the child realises just how many times a day a parent can either trust or not trust them.
  • Remember to pick your battles wisely. Not many things are worth fighting over. If you choose to fight, you better win.
  • Never argue with your kids. You won’t win.
  • Don’t nag or remind. Tell them once. They are smart enough to remember if it’s important to them.
  • Talk about things your child likes to do and explain exactly what you need to see from him/her in order to gain access to those things(this happens when a misbehaviour has occurred)
  • Allow a child to have the power to gain access to the things that are important to him/her. They will choose the most important things to them. Don’t choose for them.
  • Preserve the relationship at all cost. Make the problem the behaviour, not the child.
  • When you need to talk to a child about their behaviour, do it in calm waters when everything is going fine. You can ask them to come up with solutions of what should happen when misbehaviour occurs.
  • Have a back-up plan in case they don’t follow through with their end of the bargain when a problem arises.
  • Don’t hang around for what could turn into an argument. Go back to what you were doing to show that your life goes on and you’re not worried about it.
  • Smile!! You choose whether you are happy or sad. Consequences said with a smile are much easier to swallow.


Anthony Vandermolen, Principal