Andrew Harmon




Education Firm, But Friendly:
Turning Undesirable Behavior Into Desirable Behavior 
by Virginia C. Powell, EdM
Montessori Teacher, Trainer & School Consultant

Parenting is certainly in the running for being the most inconvenient job! Here are some suggestions to help make it as workable and pleasant for you, and everyone, as possible.

Be Consistent. Give Consequences. Follow Through. The trick is to be an authoritative parent. Take authority and stay in control of the situation. Be the parent who helps your child to control himself. We don’t need to believe that children are to be seen and not heard; nor do our children need for us to be their good friend. Our children need a good leader. They need structure, they need guidelines, they need consistency, and they need all of this from a loving, friendly, yet firm, adult. As inappropriate behavior is being dismantled, personal dignity must be built up. An example of this would be, “We had to leave the museum because your behavior was unsafe. I know you will control it better next time, because you are a strong person.”

Choices. As the adult in your child’s life, you make the choices having to do with health, education and your child’s welfare. Your child should be able to make choices, with limits, that are set by an adult. For example, tell the child that they are wearing socks, but allow the child to choose the color. Tell the child that it’s cold outside and allow the child to choose to wear mittens or gloves.

On The Home Front - Table Expectations. It’s your home, not a restaurant in which “the customer’s always right”; nor does the customer get to come in at anytime and expect to be seated. Simply state, “This is our meal time. When we finish, the table will be cleared, the food will be put away, and the kitchen will close. We won’t be eating again until breakfast. If you eat now, you’ll not be hungry later; but if you choose to play instead of eat, you’ll sure get hungry before breakfast.” If the child chooses to not eat at that time and returns later, follow through with, “Yes, I’m sure you are hungry now, but you chose not to eat when we were having supper….”. Be consistent. Yes, you can make that happen while being loving and firm. The child will easily survive missing one meal, and it will probably take only one missed meal for a lesson to be learned. For sleeping purposes, a small glass of milk and, maybe a cracker, could be offered, with compassion, before bedtime.

On The Home Front - Going To Bed. During childhood, adequate sleep has many advantages later on in life as well. Make bedtime a ritual. First, set the stage by having quiet time. Lower the lights and, maybe, play soft music for a while. Second, get the child involved in making the bedtime ritual. Allow the child to help with making a list of “Things People Do To Get Ready For Bed” and then help with prioritizing the list. Without overdoing it, you can help your child understand that he, or she, has done something important. Having the child sign the list and hanging it in the room helps to solidify the importance of his those actions and creates feelings of ownership — a feeling that will be recognized when he, or she, is actually old enough to take ownership.

Going Go School - Organization. Ways to make getting out the door in the mornings less stressful:

  • Allow the child to choose between two outfits and lay it out the night before.

  • Lunches should be made the night before.

  • Make the rules that getting dressed and eating breakfast must be done before anything else.

  • Walk out the door by a certain time. This helps the child develop an “inner rhythm”.

If necessary, the child can go school in PJ’s. Believe me, they’ve seen it before at school. As far as your child is concerned, it won’t happen again.

Outings: Be Democratic and Set Boundaries. When taking children along, make sure there’s something for everyone. Before arriving, set boundaries and make it clear that rules must be followed—for safety, and for the consideration of others — and if they are not followed, there will be consequences. If you are at a place that the child enjoys, leave without negotiating. You might say something like, “I’m really sorry, but you chose to not follow the rules. We’ll have to come back another day when you’re ready to follow the rules.” You may have to pick him, or her, up while kicking and screaming, but it’s OK—it’s what they do. Don’t worry about what other people are thinking—they’re probably admiring you.

Good luck with your friendly, but firm, tone. Remember that when children learn that “yes means yes and no means no”, they will be much happier.



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