There is often debate amongst Montessorians about whether Montessori methods and Attachment Parenting can co-exist. After all, Montessori parenting promotes independence whilst Attachment Parenting encourages the caregiver to keep their child as close as possible.
Is there really a way for both of these parenting practices to exist alongside each other?
What is Montessori parenting?
The Montessori approach is a method of both parenting and education which is child-centred. It focusses heavily on self-directed activity, hands-on learning and collaborative play. Children are supported to learn at their own pace, following their individual interests.
The Montessori method of raising children was developed by Maria Montessori, an Italian physician and educator, in the early 1900s. It was Maria Montessori who opened the first ever Montessori school in Rome in 1907.
The main purpose of the Montessori approach is for the child to develop creative learning skills which will continue to help them to succeed as they progress through life. This approach has also been proven to improve concentration and attention, along with self-discipline.
What is Attachment Parenting?
Attachment Parenting is a parenting philosophy which focuses on building a nurturing bond between the child and caregiver. This bond is seen as the key to raising a secure and independent child who is able to form positive relationships throughout life.
This parenting style encourages parents to keep their child close and respond immediately to their needs. It promotes natural term breastfeeding, baby-wearing and co-sleeping to demonstrate consistent loving care to the child.
Attachment Parenting was formally developed by paediatrician William Sears along with his wife Martha in the 1980s. Sears believed that being sensitive and responsive to a child’s needs would allow them to develop into independent and secure adults.
What are the similarities between Montessori and Attachment Parenting?
There are many areas where the Montessori approach and Attachment Parenting cross over.
Both the Montessori philosophy and Attachment Parenting have the long-term goal of raising independent and secure children. Both approaches do this by meeting the child’s needs in a loving way so that they are secure enough to explore their world independently.
Both parenting philosophies also stress that children should be treated as individuals and shown respect. Strict discipline is discouraged in favour of open communication and education.
There are further similarities between the practices seen in Montessori and Attachment Parenting. For example, both of these parenting approaches aim to raise children in a natural manner, beginning with a gentle birth, and then using cloth nappies and breastfeeding wherever possible.
How do Montessori and Attachment Parenting differ?
There are also some key differences between the Montessori approach and Attachment Parenting.
Attachment Parenting tends to support extended breastfeeding, with many children breastfed until the point at which both mother and child are ready to stop. Many Attachment Parenting sources state the natural age of weaning to be between two and seven years of age. However, some Montessori sources, advise against doing this. For example, the book ‘Montessori from the Start’ suggests weaning the child off the breast at around 6-9 months of age to encourage independence.
Babywearing, using slings or carriers, is also popular amongst those practicing Attachment Parenting due to the close bond it can create. However, some Montessori sources are against babywearing as they feel it restricts the independence of the child and argue that it stops the baby from moving their body adequately to develop coordination.
With these strong differences in opinion, is there really a way forward for the Montessori philosophy to exist alongside Attachment Parenting?
What does Maria Montessori say about Attachment Parenting?
As the Montessori philosophy was developed by Maria Montessori over a century ago, there is no way to know how she would have felt about Attachment Parenting, which was developed much more recently in the 1980s.
However, Maria Montessori was led by research and understood the importance of a secure bond between the caregiver and the child. Therefore, it’s likely that having seen the research, she would have appreciated the benefits that Attachment Parenting provides and agreed that both philosophies can be practiced alongside one another.
In fact, in ‘The Absorbent Mind’, Dr Montessori talks about cultures where it is common for mothers to nurse their children for several years, or until natural term, along with carrying their babies for most of the day. She comments that these children rarely cry when compared to those living in Western cultures. She also commends that the children learn about the world in most natural way as they are with their mothers all day, watching their day-to-day life occur.
If she were around now, perhaps Maria Montessori would have been in favour of Attachment Parenting after all.
Can the Montessori approach and Attachment Parenting co-exist?
There’s no doubt that the philosophies of Montessori and Attachment Parenting are aligned in many ways. Both approaches aim to support the child to develop secure relationships and independence, setting them up for their future. Both are also against strict discipline, preferring open conversation.
Although there may be differences in opinion when it comes to breastfeeding and babywearing, it is very much possible to practice both approaches alongside one another – although perhaps not as strictly as if you were just following one approach.
Ultimately, the approach you take to raising your child will depend on your own beliefs and values, along with what works best for your individual family circumstances.