Maren Schmidt, M. Ed.

Maren Schmidt, M. Ed.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

In Service to the Child

When you help a child climb the tree, everyone enjoys the fruit.
-Nankani Proverb

What do we expect when we patronize a restaurant? Tasty food, cheerful wait staff, good cost/price performance, timely delivery and, of course, not to go away hungry.

Our decision making process is based on factors of price, timeliness, quality of relationships and product delivered. Our expectations at a fast-food joint differ from those for a five-star restaurant but are based on similar criteria. We don't expect cherries jubilee at a taco place. If our food was wrapped in paper at Chez Louie, we might be irate. Also, we'd never ask to purchase shoes at a restaurant. We select a business to meet specific needs or desires.

When a business tries to be everything to everybody, or everything to a few people, it is apt to fail. A solitary business would struggle to meet every need and desire of every customer. Responding to overly demanding customers can cause a business to lose focus, neglect clients and ultimately fail.

So, the business of being parents, teachers and caretakers is much like that of any business. Our business is to serve the child or to help the child, in Dr. Montessori's words, "become a complete human being, able to exercise in freedom a self-disciplined will and judgment, unperverted by prejudice and undistorted by fear."

Things can start to go wrong in our business as parents and caregivers when, in a misconstrued sense of service, we try to meet every need and whim of a child. Instead of assisting a child's developmental needs, we inadvertently train them to be over demanding and unrealistic not-yet human beings.

Children's basic needs are to become a person engaged in their time and place, and to construct themselves as human beings who will be of service to others. Becoming a person of your time and place has as many variations as people on this planet.

As parents, teachers and caretakers, we offer a service to our children to meet their needs in order for them to become fully functioning adults. It's a role we fill, much like the service a restaurant offers. Adults work to meet the child's fundamental needs of food, clothing, shelter, loving relationships, along with human development and learning needs, using available resources.

A successful restaurant doesn't have to meet the impractical whims of every customer. A winning business offers a good product, cheerfully, in a timely manner, at a price the customer can afford, with a desire for repeat business and a long-term relationship.

To serve our children, we need, as adults, to act like a successful business. We cheerfully attend to a child's genuine needs with the resources we have available in our culture, based on our personal values. We will serve our children well by being the adult we want our children to become.

Next Week: Being Friendly with Error

About Kids Talk™
Kids Talk™ is an award-winning newspaper column dealing with early childhood development issues written by Maren Stark Schmidt. Contact her via e-mail at Read column archives at 

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About Maren Schmidt
Maren SchmidtMaren Schmidt founded a Montessori school and holds a Masters of Education from Loyola College in Maryland.

She has over 25 years experience working with children and holds teaching credentials from the Association Montessori Internationale. She is author of Building Cathedrals Not Walls: Essays for Parents and Teachers as well as Understanding Montessori: A Guide for Parents.
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