Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Similarities Between Toddlers and Adolescents: A Montessori Look at Growing Up

My son grew up this summer. After spending five weeks with his grandparents, he came home not only taller, but a new personality had emerged. He left on vacation an elementary child and came home a “tween”... a pre-adolescent. As a mother, I’m torn. On one hand, I am excited to see him approaching maturity and becoming a man. On the other hand, I find myself missing the little boy, free of sarcasm and cynicism.

Reflecting on this on my drive to work this morning, I was struck by Montessori’s comparison between toddlers and adolescents. Both planes of development are marked by great growth and change, physically, emotionally and academically, and are accompanied by times of high frustration and personal success. I started thinking about what my son needed as a toddler and I quickly realized that he needs the same things as a young man entering the Third Plane of Development.

Similarities Between Toddlers and Adolescents: A Montessori Look at Growing Up

Toddler/Adolescent Similarities:
  • Ego Centric
  • “I can do it myself.”
  • “I already know [how to do] that.”
  • “It’s all about me.”
  • Seemingly insensitive at times, but can be incredibly empathetic
  • Has a keen sense of fairness
  • Feelings are easily hurt
  • Plays hard. Works hard. Sleeps hard.

Toddler/Adolescent Needs:
  • Reassurance
  • Active listening
  • Adequate nourishment – often
  • Physical attention (hugs, pats on the back)
  • Limits. (They will push the limits and want to know they are consistent.)
  • A safe place where they can feel free to fall apart/lose control/have a tantrum or just be themselves.
  • Freedom to explore new things/new friendships/new places, with the knowledge that there is a home “base”, a place of normalcy, to return to.
  • Help making wise choices
  • Positive role models
  • Freedom to make and learn from their mistakes
  • And most importantly, unconditional love and acceptance
As much as possible, NAMC’s web blog reflects the Montessori curriculum as provided in its teacher training programs. We realize and respect that Montessori schools are unique and may vary their schedules and offerings in accordance with the needs of their individual communities. We hope that our readers will find our articles useful and inspiring as a contribution to the global Montessori community.
© North American Montessori Center - originally posted in its entirety at Montessori Teacher Training on Wednesday, August 8, 2007.


  1. I just made the toddler/teen comparison to a parent the other day and she was shocked at how true it was! Thanks for analyzing this issue and presenting the similarities side by side; very helpful!

  2. When I taught middle school, my daughter was 4 years old and it really felt like the same thing. Now my daughter is 10 and entering this adolescent time. It was good to be reminded of the needs and similarities to help support her during this developmental stage.

  3. Cindy, thank you for your kind comments. I wish you well on your daughter's adolescent journey.


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