Modeling Grace and Courtesy with Toddlers

By Melissa Wilcox, Toddler Guide, Alder Room, Lake Oswego Campus

Maria Montessori once said, “To do an action gracefully it is not enough to do it with a smile on one’s face. The smile has to come from the heart. It must correspond with the feelings and be an act of will.”

“Grace and Courtesy” is a term that is often heard in a Montessori Community. In simple terms, it is showing respect for one another, and the world around us. Primary Guides give 3 to 6 year olds simple Grace and Courtesy lessons in small groups. In Toddler communities, children are introduced to these concepts through the everyday modeling of the adults around them. If we would like toddlers to be gracious and courteous, we need to lead by example. When it is a part of our lifestyle, it is easy for children to model after us.

Here are some simple things that we do in the Toddler Community, that can also be done at home to cultivate Grace and Courtesy:

  • Say “Hello” and “Goodbye” to both children and adults when you arrive and leave
  • Use eye contact, getting down to the child’s level to talk to them
  • When a child is talking to you, listen to them; show them with your body language that you are present (set down your phone, close your laptop, etc.)
  • When you are unable to someone your full attention, graciously let them know when you will be available. With younger children, keep it simple, such as, “I will be available in just a moment…” with a kind smile. With older children, you might say something like, “It is important to me that I hear what you have to say. I need to finish [fill in task here], and I then I will be available.” Using this respectful communication with other adults is important to model as well.
  • Wash your hands after we use a toilet, or wipe our nose
  • Cover your mouth when you yawn, sneeze or cough
  • Push in chairs when you are done at a table
  • Mindfully clean up when you see something out of place
  • Say “please” and “thank you” when being served food
  • In the classroom, we model how respect for other people’s work. We often don’t “share” a material; instead, we respect the fact that our friend is doing something, and politely wait for them to finish. This could be used at home with siblings or playmates.

As the child is still in the stage of the unconscious absorbent mind, his exercise of grace and courtesy, of the fine flower of charity, of consideration, of service to others, cannot yet be in his own human responsibility. For that his intellect has to be illuminated, his will has to be trained to choose the good. Therefore the responsibility for the child’s acts of grace and courtesy rest fully on the parents and family. They are responsible for the prepared environment in which the child can absorb grace and courtesy. -Margaret Stephenson, excerpt from her Keynote Address at the 1998 Association Montessori Internationale USA National Conference in Oak Brook, Illinois

Grace and Courtesy is the foundation of peace. When we recognize the value in each individual person, we can give them the respect that they deserve.

More Posts

Tools of Responsibility in A Montessori Elementary Classroom

By Ashley Keneller, Upper Elementary Guide, Vermont Street Campus: Redwood Room In every Montessori classroom at every level, students and their Guides strive to maintain a healthy balance between...

The Great Stories

By Kelly Hale At the very core of Montessori Elementary is a series of five lessons, known affectionately as The Great Stories. These impressionistic and symbolic lessons are stories that are meant...

Independence at Home

By Carrie Caffee-Martin, Primary Guide, Lake Oswego Campus: Juniper Room As the days have gotten shorter and Fall is upon us, we have settled into our school routines and are able to look forward to...

Summertime with Your Primary-Aged Child

By Lydia Mirocha, Primary Guide, Maple Room, Vermont Street Campus The transition to the summertime season is an exciting one. The days are longer, gardens are full of color and the birds and bugs...

Supporting Your Child in Their Transition to On-Campus Learning

As we look ahead to the return to onsite learning with joyful anticipation, feelings of overwhelm, confusion, sadness or anxiety may also arise in children and adults alike. With a year of big...