Lalitha Chacko discusses the book “The Child in the Family”, by Dr. Maria Montessori

Posted September 2, 2016 2:23 pm by

Mrs. Lalitha Chacko is the Centre Director at Legacy Early Years, Bangalore.

Lalitha Chaco
In this article, Mrs. Lalitha Chacko discusses about the importance of the book ‘The Child in the Family’, by Dr. Maria Montessori in 1929. She tells that how in this book, Dr. Maria Montessori encourages parents and educators to reconsider socially accepted practices and explains how her philosophy can benefit children and ultimately humanity.

Children are not understood by society and because they are weak, they are dominated by well-meaning but misguided adults.

“The idea that the child is a personality separate from the adult never seemed to occur to anybody.” 

“What is the child? He is a reproduction of the adult who possesses him as if he were a piece of property…..No servant has ever had the limitless obedience of a child required of him.  Never were the rights of man so disregarded as in the case of the child.  No worker has ever had to follow orders as must the child.  No one has ever had to work like the child, who has to submit to an adult who imposes hours of work and hours of play according to a rigid and arbitrary set of rules.”

The above passage is from the book ‘The Child in the Family’ written in 1929 by Dr. Maria Montessori.  The book is particularly meaningful to me because it lifts a veil of long-standing assumptions about children and the raising of children that I have taken blindly as fact.

In this book she discusses the role of young children in society and touches upon how, through scientific observation of children, she came to develop the Montessori Method.  Her method is not simply an educational curriculum, but a larger philosophy on the care and education of children from birth.  As a scientist and medical doctor she observed over her lifetime how children develop, how they learn, what motivates children to learn, and how adults can assist, but not force, children in becoming the physical, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual being they are meant to be.  She used her observations to develop educational materials and to establish Montessori schools all over the world.  Because her philosophy is based on years of scientific observation, the Montessori Method and the materials in traditional Montessori schools today are essentially the same as they were 100 years ago. While this may cause concern for some, it makes a great deal of sense to me. She observed the true nature and inherent developmental needs of children, and these remain unchanged. They are not subject to the whim of whatever current educational wind may be blowing. This results in philosophical and educational consistency from child to child, school to School, generation to generation.

It forced me to look at everything I believe about raising and educating children and ask “is it so?”

This book opened my eyes to how society passes down social norms, and how these norms are accepted without question from caregiver to child, year after year after year. Through her work, Montessori believes that supporting children on a path to independence should be the main priority of the parent and educator.  Dr. Montessori suggests that what our children need is an environment where they are welcomed for who they are (rather than what the adult expects them to be), one that is adapted for their needs at each stage of their development, and one with adults who are always there to help and guide if and when needed.  That said, many of us, myself included, are taught through example to believe that ‘well bred’ children must be constantly monitored, contained, and corrected. So many of us do these things out of love for our children.  What this book suggests is that by failing to question if there is another way, that we’re shooting ourselves in the foot without even realizing it. Dr. Montessori says,

“It is the adult closest to the child….who presents the greatest danger to the formation of the child’s personality.  The adult himself is the unknowing cause of the difficulties against which he [the child] battles. Until the adults consciously face their errors and correct them they will find themselves in a forest of insoluble problems.  And children, becoming in turn adults, will be the victims of this same error, which they will transmit from generation to generation.”

For many parents, decisions about the care and education of children are often made unconsciously.  Many new parents know little about child development, yet sadly there is little emphasis in our society to do the work to educate ourselves before we have children. In ‘The Child in the Family’, Maria Montessori encourages parents and educators to reconsider socially accepted practices, and she explains how her philosophy can benefit children and ultimately humanity.

Dr. Montessori’s philosophy, method and educational materials are a direct result of her scientific observations and lifetime of work with children from infancy through adolescence.  Today, medical science is confirming what Dr. Montessori observed over 100 years ago to be true.   The Child In the Family provides insights into how children develop both physically and psychologically, what parents and educators can do to support children in their natural development, the importance of a prepared environment, and the role of the adult in the supporting the child as they build both character and intellect, starting at birth.

Contact info:
Mrs. Lalitha Chacko  | Legacy Early Years | +91 9035004930
126/5/4 Nellurhalli Road, (Behind Palm Meadows) Varthur Hobli, Bangalore 560066, Karnataka, India