“A slap every now and then does them good”: it was a common affirmation among parents (like ours!) in the past, those who really did occasionally give their children a spank or slap. The purpose of a slap was to frighten, to impose authority, to remind the child who was in charge: to put a child who was acting out “back in line”. But is (and was) there really any need for those slaps? No. Simply because the parent’s role is not what it was believed to be at that time – a role that without supremacy crumbled and lost all meaning. Today, after studies, research and reflection, we understand that it is virtually the opposite: we must not put them “back in line” but let them grow. And we must do so while respecting the child’s individuality: valuing them as an individual, accompanying them in their growth, promoting the development of autonomy and personality. Each with their own traits.
Americans have invented a compelling expression for this: it is a “parenting revolution”. They emphasise that the revolution has to be started by the mother and father.
We are going through a parenting revolution in recent years but it has ancient roots because the Montessori method and that of Malaguzzi, the father of the educational system we now call Reggio Children, are based on these ideas. Children should be seen as complete growing individuals, driven by curiosity and interest in the world, and not as containers to be filled with notions and rules of good manners. Children learn by themselves, they are active subjects in their own growth, and should not be forced. All education, therefore, is based on the respect for their individuality, that the adult is required to stimulate without force. Obviously without resorting to violence.
These two educational approaches were born in Italy during the 20th century: that of Maria Montessori at the beginning of the century, and that of Reggio in the 70s.
They have much in common, such as the pacifist inspiration and the aspiration to build a healthy society made up of individuals who can fully express their intellectual and creative potential. And for both the environment is an educational tool.
As for the differences, there are many but they are not irreconcilable. For Montessori autonomy is developed through independence: her idea can be summarised in the slogan “help me do it myself”. Her educational curriculum is therefore highly individualised and includes a range of activities, from the use of free learning materials such as sandpaper letters, to problem-solving exercises, and structured domestic activities for the development of logical thinking, creativity and personal autonomy. The Reggio philosophy instead is based on the relationship with others and so encourages interaction with other children and with adults, but also with the environment in which the child grows. He says that children have many languages (not only words but also drawings, games and music) and so they are a real promoter of culture, able to participate in the construction of the community in which they are inserted.
In conclusion: there is no need to get a degree in education to begin the revolution in your own home. You can take part in the parenting revolution every day by learning to listen to children and interact with them as people. In short, growing together!