Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all the others.
In the Montessori community, the lessons of Grace and Courtesy are integral at every level. From young infants to adolescents, children are taught to live together in community. Grace and courtesy goes beyond the common social niceties of “please” and “thank you” by demonstrating the value of courteous and empathetic behavior and communication as a vital life skill.
Gratitude and Thanksgiving in the Montessori Environment
Gratitude is one of the lessons of Grace and Courtesy. We teach children to say “thank you” as a rote habit. But to truly understand the value of being thankful builds character through “generosity, humility, wisdom, joy, integrity and trust.” (Arrien)
To help children learn to value gratitude, we can incorporate it into our daily Montessori activities.
With younger children, we can learn to talk about what we appreciate. We begin by modeling, using our words and tone of voice to appreciate what we see around us:
- I appreciate how Rinaldo cleaned up after he made snack.
- Thank you for these lovely flowers. I truly appreciate your thoughtfulness, Jenna.
- Mrs. Bigsby, our guinea pig, appreciates her water dish being cleaned. Thank you Kayla and Maya for helping with that today.
We can help children express their gratitude by using descriptive compliments, sometimes called “appreciations.” As you can see in the previous examples, appreciations make others feel important by recognizing their efforts. Maren Schmidt, of Understanding Montessori: A Guide for Parents, writes, “Descriptive compliments describe what you see, what you feel, and then use a word that sums up the entire experience.” (Schmidt, 2007) Descriptive compliments describe rather than evaluate, which makes them quite different from general compliments. General compliments, or praise, are often devoid of honesty and sincerity. Or, they can easily be misinterpreted as criticism. For example, if my husband tells me “that dress really makes you look thin,” I may wonder how my other clothes make me look!
We can share appreciations individually or offer them collectively. Some Montessori teachers invite the children to share appreciations at the end of the day or at the beginning of class meetings. They may also encourage older children to record special appreciations and place them in a gratitude chest. The appreciations can then be read aloud at a specified time during the week.
Let us remember that Thanksgiving is more than a day of feasting. Let true thanksgiving and gratitude live in our hearts every day.
I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought, and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.
© North American Montessori Center - originally posted in its entirety at Montessori Teacher Training on Wednesday, November 26, 2014.