Kingsolver on Montessori: “You Can Do Hard Things”

kingsolver-barbara-ap1credit-david-wood_vert-56a181b93590de67f321c2f8d36e5d8c1dc4d75f-s6-c30Barbara Kingsolver  (Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, Flight Behavior, among many others) does a wide-ranging interview in this month’s Sun Magazine touching on writing, climate change, food, and more.  The interviewer asks about perseverance:

How do you nurture people to work hard enough to move all that dirt? How do you do that with your own children?

And all of a sudden there’s this:

There’s something I have said so often to my children that now they chant it back to me: “You can do hard things.” I sent my kids to a Montessori preschool, and thank heavens I did, because most of what I learned about parenting came from those wonderful Montessori teachers.  They straightened me out about self-esteem.  There’s this myth that self-esteem comes from making everything easy for your children and making sure they never fail.  If they never encounter hardship or conflict, the logic goes, they’ll never feel bad about themselves. Well, that’s ridiculous.  That’s not even a human life.

Kids learn self-esteem from mastering difficult tasks.  It’s as simple as that. The Montessori teachers told me to put my two-year-old on a stool and give her the bread, give her the peanut butter, give her the knife — a blunt knife — and let her make that sandwich and get peanut butter all over the place, because when she’s done, she’ll feel like a million bucks.  I thought that was brilliant.  Raising children became mostly a matter of enabling them and standing back and watching.  When a task was difficult, that’s when I would tell them, “You can do hard things.”  Both of them have told me they still say to themselves, “I can do hard things.”  It helps them feel good about who they are, not just after they’ve finished, but while they’re engaged in the process.

Thanks, Barbara!

3 responses to “Kingsolver on Montessori: “You Can Do Hard Things”

  1. Pingback: "You can do hard things." - Bergamo Schools

  2. One more reason for me to love Barbara Kingsolver!


  3. Bonnie Greene

    At the very moment when this comment arrived in my inbox, I was watching a documentary on the effort to find the Higgs particle. One of the scientists was saying, “The most important thing about this experience is that we human beings with tiny brains could work together and achieve this very hard thing.” Indeed, you can do hard things. And all my Montessori-trained grandsons will do hard things when I’m long gone–maybe even harder than finding the Higgs particle!


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