Montessori teaches us to look at each child as a unique being who has never lived before; a spiritual embryo alive with possibility and ready to grow spiritually, morally, and psychologically. She wrote:
"Human beings are formed slowly. Each of us is "worked by hand," and each individual is different from every other, having his own distinctive spirit, as if he were a natural work of art. The process takes many years.
The inner life of the child is an enigma. The only thing we know about him is that he could be anything, but nobody knows what he will be or what he will do.
Human development is exactly like the process necessary to produce a work of art that the artist, sequestered in the intimacy of his studio, modifies and transforms before he brings it before the public. The process by which the human personality is formed is in the hidden work of incarnation. "
Montessori thought of the child as a spiritual embryo personality in the process of development, which must eventually be able to operate on its own in the world. Like the human embryo before birth, the spiritual embryo that is the young child must be protected from a hostile psychological environment by the warmth of our love and acceptance.
Many adults mistakenly believe that children develop their character solely through our care and upbringing. They believe that parents can shape a child's personality and destiny through moral instruction.
Our primary role as parents is to help our children to become mature, independent and responsible. Unfortunately, we often misunderstand what we can do, and what we must not do, if we truly want to facilitate this process. We tend to over-protect, not realizing that our children can only learn about life through trial and error, just as we did.
Parents unconsciously tended to hinder and frustrate the child's process of spiritual growth although we may operate from the best of intentions.
Children carry within themselves the key to their own development. Their early attempts to express their individuality are hesitant and tentative. Our children think that we are all wise and all powerful. They are easily overwhelmed by our best intentions. Our efforts to protect our children from mistakes that seem so obvious from our perspective tend to frustrate their process of learning about life for themselves.
We have to respect our children's efforts to develop an independent personality, because through this creative process they are literally forming the adults they will become. As parents, it is our duty to attempt to understand the psychological needs of our children and to prepare an environment within our homes for them.
Our role as parents is to help our children learn to live in peace and harmony with all people and the environment. We work to create a home in which our children can learn to function as independent, thinking people.
To truly succeed in our role as parents, we need to treat our children with tremendous respect as full and complete human beings that happen to be in our care. Our children need to feel that it is okay to be who and what they are.
We need to really let them feel our respect; it is not enough to simply say the words. If they believe that they are not living up to our expectations, that we are disappointed in the people they are becoming, they may be emotionally scarred for a lifetime. A child who feels not accepted by his parents can only wander through life looking in from the outside like a stranger.