I started a Montessori and Simple Family living series of Interviews with the hope, as Readers, you may gain some information, encouragement, support and inspiration and just maybe, a way to connect with other like-minded families.
Today I am introducing you to Lorena Seidel, a Montessori Educator, social-emotional school consultant, author of The Purposeful Child, Mindfulness Teacher and Mother of four.
Q1. Dear Lorena, would you like to share with us a bit about yourself, your family and what part of the world you live in?
It’s Lorena Seidel here! I believe all children can experience a peaceful and wholesome childhood, and ALL adults can feel good and proud of their parenting at the end of the day. I’m a Social Emotional Learning specialist, a Positive Discipline Facilitator, a Montessori Educator, and a Mindfulness teacher. However, my biggest accomplishment is my family. I’m a mother of four little girls. An angel baby girl who we’ve lost late in our first pregnancy named Christine. Then we went on to have Pollyanna, who is 9, Annabelle, who is 7, and Juliette, who is 5. I live with my husband and the girls in the small village of Rowayton on the coast of Conneticut.
Q2. How did you first start on a Montessori path and what does this journey mean to you and your family?
While awaiting the birth of my first child, I transformed my home. Back in 2009, the mom of a student in my classroom told me all about bringing Montessori into the house. They had really embraced it as a lifestyle and a valuable parenting tool. They told me that their children slept on low beds, fed themselves at a small table using real utensils, and were even potty trained by seventeen months.
I was impressed.
Like any expectant mom. I had to learn all about this magical way of raising a young child, which was different from everything I knew about parenting. I started to prepare my home environment while keeping the child’s perspective in mind, and it became addictive. Finding new ways to make the world accessible to my daughter fed my creativity. After witnessing firsthand how much my toddler could do for herself, I knew I needed to share the idea with others.
I had gone to many playgroups and watched young children playing in environments that were fully childproofed with gates, latches, outlet covers, foam corners, and more. However, we moms still spent too much time and energy, saying the word no, chasing our babies around, and making sure they were not getting into things or getting hurt. This interrupted the child’s play, exploration, and concentration. I realized the home environment I had created was beneficial both to my children and me. When a prepared space, and not merely a childproofed space, is in place, it provides safety while meeting the needs of the child and diminishing the constant parental intervention and over-protection. Our environment made our lives easier. It was a “yes” kind of home.
Yes, you can open the cabinet below the sink- the chemicals are no longer there.
Yes, you can help me unload the dishwasher- plates and glasses are stored at your level.
Yes, you can wipe your face by yourself- there are an unbreakable mirror and a cloth within your reach.
Yes, you can crawl around and play until you are ready to sleep- the entire bedroom works as a safe playpen, and the bed is low.
Yes, you can make your own snack- things are sized for a child and are safe and accessible.
The idea was so simple. I could not believe more people were not doing it. After my second child, I had left the classroom and started to consult with families to help create these optimum home environments for their children. We ended up Waldorf/Montessori homeschooling the girls for a few years until my oldest was eight. Now they are all at a Montessori school where I teach social-emotional learning. But those years at home was a gift to me as a mother and to my children. The children spent their days exploring our prepared environment, performing everyday tasks, and learning by doing. Peaceful songs, bread making, mint tea, storytelling, nature walks, building blocks, and the typical challenging behaviours filled our days.
The Montessori influence means so much to us. I continue to learn and teach about intentional parenting education professionally. However, I am still in the midst of my own parenting journey, and this work is crucial for me- as a mom- because I do need the constant reminders and the practice that purposeful parenting requires.
Q3. How is your parenting influenced by Montessori (or other methods/philosophies) and what have you found to be the most challenging part? Do you have any tips you would like to share?
I had been raised with very traditional disciplinary methods of yelling, shaming, blaming, threatening, permissiveness, rewards and punishing (including lots of spanking). Before I had children, I had made a vow to not replicate that. I was determined not to be that kind of mom. In fact, I have decided to dedicate my life and work to help all children experience peaceful and wholesome childhoods and to help adults feel good and proud of their parenting at the end of the day.
Despite being a teacher for several years, having a Master’s thesis on Social Emotional Learning, and had transformed my home into a Montessori inspired environment before we had our first child. I still struggled to handle tantrums, sibling rivalry, lack of listened, attention-seeking behaviors, and power struggles calmly and peacefully. I knew their behavior (whining, pushing others, power struggles) was developmentally healthy, skill-appropriate and age-appropriate. However I couldn’t help taking it personally and losing my cool.
So I did all. the. things.
I learned more about Waldorf Education (joined a parent-toddler Waldorf class and even became a homeschooler). I read all the contradictory and confusing parenting books and blogs. I’ve trained in Positive Discipline. I simplified my home, minimized the clutter, made healthy cleaning products, and became more green. I brought warmth, nature, consistency into our home-life. I learned to use peaceful songs to transition the children through the day, I learned to bake bread, use storytelling, and go on nature walks. We ate only organic foods and had only wooden toys. We did not allow screen time. I also knew I had to be non-permissive and non punitive, respectful, stay in the present moment, find and address the root causes behind our children’s negative behavior, and develop deep trust between us and our children.
All that was fun, but mostly exhausting!
Knowing “all the things” still did not stop me from disconnecting, losing my cool, and shaming, blaming or threatening my children when I was not in the right state of mind. I just could not sustain that kind of parenting for long. I would start out the day being very calm, patient, and at some point, something would happen, and I would fall off the “intentional” parenting wagon and lose my cool or give in again. I would end up going to bed feeling like I was failing this parenting thing night after night. And I worried I was damaging the kids and ruining my relationship with them for life- especially since I had struggled in my relationship with my mom for decades.
I realized many of us who genuinely believe in peaceful and respectful parenting still struggle because we have inherited poor parenting habits, emotional baggage, parenting fears, negative beliefs, and reactive patterns of interactions. Some of us had been deeply programmed to act, react, and interact in unhealthy ways with our children. Especially when we are tired, stressed, or triggered- which is often if you are a mom.
No parenting advice, tips, tools, and tricks (or copious amount of yoga) would truly help me until I upgraded my parenting mindset.
It was not until I figured out how to sort my emotional baggage, break my poor parenting habits, eliminate my parenting fears, negative beliefs, and parenting blocks that I was able to make a intentional, peaceful and respectful parenting stick. Mostly I had to rewrite my parenting mindset.
I created my magic when I combined mindfulness practices, Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT), Social-Emotional Learning, Positive Discipline, and Waldorf and Montessori Philosophies.
My goal now is to help others create equilibrium and ability to sustain connection and harmony for more extended periods. And to teach how to recover from the inevitable breakdowns and restore parent-child connection when it’s lost.
I know the impact of this work will last me through the years. And because of it’s ripple effect, it will even last through generations to come as my children will inherit the model for more purposeful parenting.
Q4. What inspires you? Do you have any goals or intentions for this year or the next that you would like to share with us?
Travelling inspires me! I would like to travel and explore more with the girls. I have a dream of exploring nature, cultures, and beauty all over the globe with them. A couple of years ago we lived in Brazil for 3.5 months (that was the beauty of homeschooling for me). Now, I would like to take advantage of my long Summer vacations and work flexibility to take my family on a summer-long stay overseas next year. I want to start by getting my home ready (decluttered, and set up for guests) so I can Airbnb it).
Q5. Are there any books or resources you would like to recommend, Montessori or other?
Of course, I would LOVE for moms to try my Joyful and Purposeful Parenting mini-training. If you deeply believe in peaceful parenting but struggle to put it into practice or make it last, join this free mini-training HERE. I teach practical strategies and activities for creating, sustaining and healing parent-child connection and harmony.
I also recommend the work of Nick Ortner and his book “The Tapping Solution” He taught me how to use Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT/Tapping). This video shows how to start tapping- watch HERE.
I loved and learned from many beautiful books. Here are a few of my favorites:
Between Parent and Child by Haim Ginott
Simplicity Parenting by Kim John Payne
Positive Discipline books by Jane Nelson and Lynn Lott
Parenting From the Inside Out by Dr. Daniel Siegel
The Whole Brain Child by Dr. Daniel Siegel
Conscious Parenting by Dr. Shefali
Parenting in the Present Moment by Carla Naumburg
Understanding Human Nature by Alfred Adler
Children: The Challenge by Rudolf Dreikurs
The Purposeful Child: A Quick and Practical Parenting Guide to Creating the Optimal Home Environment for Young Children by Lorena T. Seidel (that is me!)
My book is a brief and precise (short and sweet) guide in which I summarized my researched and hard-earned lessons in the most succinct manner to allow parents to gain as much value in the least amount of time. The principles and concepts in this book can be used to help children of all ages. However this book focuses on parents of younger children (toddlers-kindergarten). Amazon book link- HERE.
Thanks so much Lorena for being a part of this Interview series.