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Monthly Archives: November 2016

Montessori on Attachment


Attachment Theory was developed after Maria Montessori by Bowlby, beginning in 1969. So imagine my surprise to find Montessori speaking of Attachment in her 1946 London Lectures!

Little children between three and six years of age have a special psychology. They are full of love. They are only without love if they are ill treated. If they are badly treated their real nature is altered. Children are full of love and need to be loved in order to grow. All mothers naturally love their children and so the children get this love that they need.The love of the parents is the security of the young age. Their joy in life depends on the love for each other of all the people around them.

The sense of security that comes from having loving parents is necessary, too, for success in school; children of united families are more successful. Little children need to feel that their parents cannot live without them – that if they are not happy, their parents suffer. A psychologist gae a lecture here in London showing that harm was done to small children who had to be left behind by their parents when they went to work in the Colonies. He gave a striking example of a businessman who went to Australia, leaving his wife and little son in England. The child felt that he father was not so attached to them and then one day the mother told him that his father needed her and that she would have to join him. The child was broken-hearted. he had had the security of thinking that his mother loved him better than anyone else and then learnt that she, instead preferred the father. This meant the loss of all security for him.


By seven years of age, the child has a different psychology. He is no longer dependent on his parents’ love.

— Lecture 28 Religious Education, The 1946 London Lectures

I had previously written briefly on Montessori’s viewpoint on attachment here through the words of her student, Margaret Humfray. Half a year later, I wrote an essay that particularly focused on Attachment, as part of my Montessori training requirements, where I was not to quote Montessori. Here I had the opportunity to delve into the science of the theory of attachment. Where I found some surprising things. I think it is useful for parents to be aware of the findings of these attachment studies in the past half century, which I have summarized below.

  1. John Bowlby’s Attachment Theory (1969) was inspired by various animal studies : Harlow’s cloth mother/iron mother rhesus monkey study, and Konrad Lorenz’s discovery of imprinting in grey lag goslings.
  2. Bowlby’s timeline for attachment:
    – Infants begin to exhibit preferential communication with primary caregivers around 5~7 months of age
    – Attachment behaviours (clinging, upset when mother figure is absent…etc.) at around 9 months.
    – Attachment behaviours peak at 12~16 months.
    – Attachement formation has a sensitive period up to 2 or 3 years of age.
    – Child becomes able to accomodate for other people’s needs around age 3. This is the next stage in the attachment relationship. Child exhibits less need for proximity and can now operate on more abstract needs such as affection, trust and approval.
  3. Mary Ainsworth discovered that parenting style influences attachment style. It is important to note that infants, and later children, are shown to express different forms of attachment behaviours (or types) when presented with different adults in their life. Ex: the child may express type B when interacting with father, and type D to mother.
  4. Attachment style has ramifications for parent-child relationship into adulthood. Afterwards, other researchers found that:
    – Attachment styles can continue to be propagated into the next generation.
    – Children can change attachment category through life (Smith, Cowie & Blades, 2003)
    – Mothers who experienced deprived parenting, but were highly reflective individuals, tended to raise securely attached infants (Fonagy etal., 1994)
  5.  Further into his career, Bowlby had modified his statement from ‘mothers’ to ‘primary caregivers’. Attachment does not have to be the mother, or female. Can be small constellation of primary caregivers.
  6. Later studies have also shown that there is no absolute prediction of the child’s ability to relate to others based on the attachment type they displayed in the lab during infancy. There are two ideas about how this may be: 1) that some children may be more resilient than others. And 2) that later trust relationships that were formed may also be influential to the child’s social outlook.

    Keywords: Internal Working Model (Bowlby, 1969), Concept of Self (Bowlby, 1988), Secure Base, Strange Situation (Ainsworth), Parenting Styles (Ainsworth, 1978), 4 Types of Attachment (Ainsworth et al, 1978; Main, Solomon, 1990), Adult Attachment Interview (George, Kaplan, Main)


Films for children ages 2~5

I would like to suggest here a list of videos that we allow our children to watch. In dialogue with other parents and teachers, I have come to realise that my list is more stringent than most (among both secular and religious).


Young children have a slower processing speed than adults, and require adequate context (background information) to understand plot and dialogue. I personally believe it is possible to, superficially, give children context through film. Superficially, because this medium engages only two of our senses. It is important, however, that even in giving children context, we pay attention to the scaffolding of knowledge. Film can be very effectively used to illustrate concepts or questions that we have. I would, however, strongly suggest we carefully control this medium as a means to answer questions, so that the written word can still hold attraction for a child. Our challenge as adults is to allow children to feel enough mental hunger, with just-right resources, so that their natural inclination to learn can be optimised.

Pacing is also extremely important. It is possible for a young child to appear entranced, and say they enjoy a film, without being aware of the plot and thereby derive meaningful benefit to them.

I believe that this list is mostly adequate for children throughout their preschool years (2 ~6 years old), particularly as young children enjoy the comforts of watching the same videos over and over again. In our family, we only let children watch videos on the weekends, for 30 minutes each time, 2 times a day. We are also flexible in reducing the time each day if the kids are having fun, and sometimes mixing it up with doing boardgames, making something, or puzzles together instead.

Please note that I still do not recommend any videos for children under two years old, despite recent APA change.

The following is roughly listed by order of introduction. Also, as a Montessorian, I try to minimize fantasy for this age group because it is difficult for children this age to distinguish between fantasy and reality. A good grounding in real things is also vital to children’s imaginations later on. However, it is very difficult. I would always suggest watching something yourself before allowing your child to see it. I do not necessarily follow what is politically correct, even though most of the films here happen to be, because children do not necessarily focus on what the adults see. My focus is pacing, understanding, relate-ability, comfort, low-stimulation, and (mostly) accurate information for this age group.

  1. Le Ballon Rouge : a mostly wordless story of a young boy and his magical balloon in post WWII Paris.
  2. Petit D’Ours Brun: French, a brown bear and his family. Very relate-able to a young child’s daily life close to home. Each episode lasting only 3 minutes
  3. Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood: Repetition and pacing, on topics that matter to young children. There are whole essays written on the lovableness of Mr. Roger’s philosophy.
  4. Go Outside by Cbeebies: slightly similar to the above. All reality based.
  5. Thomas the Tank Engine: I recommend the first series. Also The End of the Line which talks about how trains work. I allowed the children to watch End of the Line before we started with Thomas.
  6. : some real gems here of oral story telling. Particularly the older the actor the better they perform. I am also fond of audiobooks for road trips.
  7. Mr. Wizard: Science experiments. I do not recommend Bill Nye the Science Guy for this age group.
  8. : Canadian National Film Board. A lot of treasures to look for.
  9. National Geographic: I recommend getting the DVDs instead of channel. Their recent programs are often too hyper and convey less information.
  10. Scholastic Storybook Treasures: DVDs, a lot are very well produced from classic story books.
  11. Studio Ghibli’s – My neighbor Totoro, Ponyo, and Kiki’s Delivery Service. All of the rest should be reserved for elementary or adolescence.
  12. Miniscule – animated insects doing things. Cute, but not vital.
  13. Old fashioned musicals: So far we have watched Merry Andrews, and Oliver! (1968) – though I may skip part of the ending until elementary. The music made a big impression on the children. The Sound of Music is also adequate.
  14. Frozen – I have not found anything objectionable in this one. It is a lovely surprise.
In talking to various friends and acquaintances who share my educational philosophy, it appears that my view of acceptable imagery for children may be more stringent than most. A great deal of this is attributed to my own memories of TV watching when my father was getting his Masters in the US (between ages 4~7 years old) – how it made me feel, how much I actually comprehended, which parts I enjoyed…etc. It is possible to examine them closely because some of the videos I watched I have only viewed again much later, like now as an adult, and so I am quite sure that the memories of the experience have not been changed through repeated viewings as I matured. As long as I remember, my parents had never had cable TV, and around the time I was in middle school, my parents cut off access to television completely. This has been extremely conducive towards my being forced to create my own amusements and content – through reading, writing and crafting. But this is another story.
If you talk to Montessori teachers, many of them will recommend very little to no TV watching at home. Montessori teachers who have young children of their own, however,will often have them watch things. The fact of life is that we are often so busy, and there are so many media options for us as adults to consume, that we rarely screen children’s media or watch it ourselves before giving it to our children.

Susan Sontag has theorized that photography desensitizes its audience to horrific human experiences, and children are exposed to experiences before they are ready for them. I would argue that movies have an even more surreptitious effect – for they present images so quickly, and often in such an authoritative manner, that disturbances rarely allow for adequate processing to articulate. The fact that some children do not present with maladjustment immediately prior to an imagery experience does not, as many sensitive parents and caregivers well know, imply that it has not bothered them .

Meghan Owenz states in a post here:

Some shows for young children attempt to teach children valuable social lessons, such as the importance of honesty. But your child will likely learn social lessons better from you.  One study found that children sometimes come away with the opposite “lesson,” thinking a solution is to lie as opposed to tell the truth. In the study, children were more like to remember the conflict or struggle over lying, but not the solution.11 Because children cannot consistently understand the difference between fantasy and reality until after age 6, the conflict may be more salient to them. It is like a threat and their brain directs more resources towards it, making it likely that they will remember that conflict.

Much older research from 1978 had previously found that when prosocial content is mixed with violence or conflict, children focused on the antisocial components like violence more than outcomes or messages associated with the violence.12 A meta-analysis of previous studies found that when children were shown prosocial content with violence or conflict, there was an association with negative behavioral outcomes.13 The take-home: When there is scary, threatening or violent conflict, that is what children pay attention to and remember, often at the expense of remembering the consequences or solutions.

Would be interested to hear of other ones you recommend!

Update on the 3 munchkins

While 7 month old Inge has made the occasional sound, some of which sound more intentional than most, today is the first time I noticed her play a game (almost intentionally) with me.

It started innocently enough. I was trying to feed her some smushy food and demonstrated, opening my mouth saying aaaah. She ignored me. I exaggerated the sound, and she, rascal inscrutable infant that she was, started giggling. So I filmed her.

Afterwards, when I focused on my own food, she would say ‘aah!’ to gain my attention. I consider this a step up from crying, or staring at you avidly until you notice. So thumbs up Inge for another step on the path to communicating with us big ‘uns!

Moving on to my backlog of notes over September to now. I would like to continue with the kids throughout our vacation and after … though it will be less detailed as I’d like it to be, I suggest if you do not care for minutiae of other people’s children you might stop reading now : )

I bought a hand drill for the kids this time in the States. Knox can use it independently. Quit needs help as her hand is smaller.

We went to Harbe’s Farm for the end of summer corn and kid activities. I have always loved bouncy castles growing up. So it was a sweet feeling when I watched Quin, being the slow warmer-upper that she is, finally found out how fun it was too.

What with this and jumping on hotel beds, she has become quite the bouncier girl upon our return.

A few incidences popped up during our vacation which involved administrative work. At one point, Mike had to make some calls regarding our flight tickets in the hotel room. A hotel room is not generally a child-friendly place, so besides jumping from bed-to-bed (which would have been too rambunctious), the kids put their hands on the hotel phone. I immediately unplugged it and decided to play an impromptu phone game (I may have been nursing Inge at the time, so was not mobile). I had noticed that the children were not completely aware how to carry on a phone conversation. So here are the characters I played:

– the laundry man.
– the hotel person.
– the police.
– your grandmother.

it appeared the children were much more vocal when they felt it to be a game I was playing with them. When I felt their loquaciousness had reached a cheerful level, I called my mother-in-law (immediate application). It was so lovely to see how their confidence carried over into what seemed more like an actual conversation than usual.

And oh, how I enjoyed the kids enjoying the playgrounds in New York City. We went to Hippo Park, Pier 25 playground, and we went twice to Heckscher Playground (Central Park). A part of Heckscher was swings and sandpit and rope jungle-gym and stone slide (of a demure incline), but the kids were drawn to the ‘risky’ stuff – the long long slide, the tire swing that goes all around and your sister sit in it too and you stand on it! And the castles with small passageways and staircases and little barely-there steps on the sides of the walls that you can scale which are very non-adult friendly. But the crowning glory were the boulders! Miniature hills cunningly designed to appear precarious. The kids tried them again and again. We sat on one and had a take-out picnic lunch. The last thing they were doing before we called them away was walking all over those rocks!

Am I gushing? Yes. Because I remember what a drive it was as a child to climb and walk and hop over high rocks. I have even dreamed about it (because the opportunities were so few).

Upon our return to Taiwan, Knox (4 years, 9 months) reminded me of things I needed to prepare so he would be able to bring it to school. I feel immensely grateful that he is such a responsible human, for truly I am that parent who forgets to bring stuff (Mike rarely is).

Knox also asked a few new questions. He asked why there is war. And (I think a few days later?) he asked what is a god. He referred here to the character Thor that some child had told him of. Mike explained how some people believe that there is a god. I believe we also gave him a brief narrative about war, but I don’t recall the whole precisely.

The Sydney opera house is in one of our books featuring buildings. So one day Quin told me she would like to go to Sydney tomorrow.

Me: But it’s a very long way away. We may not be going there anytime soon!

Quin: That’s okay. I can just sit in the stroller.


Overheard Mike quote this week: Helping means doing the things that need to be done, not just whatever you feel like doing.