QUESTION: For a 3-year-old (born in October) who is active but sweet at home but a monster at her Montessori school, what is a reasonable amount of structure to impose on weekends?
BACKGROUND: My daughter attends a Montessori school from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. and stays in the "extended day" program till 6 p.m. Her teachers say that she is bright and healthy and doesn't need a psychological evaluation, but they also say that she is a monster who is disrespectful of classroom rules. (Example: she won't put her "work" away, and she often refuses to go outside with the class for recess, even though she loves playing outside.) The teachers want us to impose more structure on weekends and emphasize the importance of following rules.
We feed our daughter organic food, limit consumption of juice, sharply limit consumption of hardcore junk food (to an occasional bottle of chocolate milk or serving of ice cream), never spank and rarely yell. We minimize the number of toys available to our daughter at any one time, and we limit TV watching to 1 hour a day of children's TV DVDs in her father's native language (Dutch). We try to be very strict about rules related to safety, and, with us, our daughter obeys those rules very well.
But my husband's schedule is erratic, and I often have to make do with 4 hours of sleep a night on weekdays. On the weekends, I usually lie on the living floor with my daughter and let her putter around. (She plays with puzzles, colors, paints, makes toy food, holds classes for her dolls and snuggles in my lap reading books.) Usually, I wait till my daughter's napped to get her out to the park, and sometimes she just putters around and we don't get to the park.
I want to do what's best for my daughter, but, honestly, the idea of having to structure my own life more rigidly on the weekends makes me want to cry.
What's the minimum amount of scheduling that I have to impose so that I don't enter the Bad Mommy Hall of Fame?
How about this schedule:
- Wake up till 10 a.m. -- free play at home.
- 11 a.m. to noon -- puzzles, painting or stamp pad with mom.
- noon - 1 p.m. -- lunch.
- 1 p.m. - 2 p.m. -- store.
- 2 p.m. - 5 p.m. -- park,playdate or other outing.
- 5 p.m. - 6 p.m. -- Dutch TV.
- 6 p. - 7 p.m. -- dinner
- 7 p.m. - bedtime -- free play
Also: Is there a good Web site that describes games or other activities that I could use to help my daughter do a better job of handling transitions and following instructions?
Finally: If my daughter has trouble following instructions at school, does it make sense for me to try to word instructions the same way the Montessori teachers word them?
It is hard for me to believe that the weekend structure really will make much of a difference re: your daughter's compliance and behavior at school. The central issue might revolve more around limit setting and discipline. In other words, are you effective in setting limits with your daughter and following through with the limits. Montessori is often not the best structure in school for children who are strong-willed and oppositional. If the school behavior is going to change, it won't depend as much on what you are doing with your daughter (apart from the very important matter of limit setting and discipline) as it will on how the school staff respond to her misbehavior. It's up to them to manage the behavior, and they will do better to look toward themselves for the solution than toward you.
I swing between egomania and horror at my utter maternal incompetence. Is there some checklist or something on the Web or in a readily available book aimed at libertarian mothers of strong-willed children that would help me figure out objectively how well I'm setting limits?
I have a feeling that a lot of books of this sort are aimed at moms who want to be a lot more authoritarian than I do. I don't really want blind obedience. I just want just enough obedience out of my daughter that she can function in life.
Sound limit setting and discipline needn't be equated with being authoritarian. Parents need to be able to exercise their authority in reasonable forms, and children require the structure afforded by judicious setting of limits. A very practical, useful book about managing children's behavior is Lynn Clark's SOS: Help for Parents.
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