You may have heard or read at some point in your life’s encounters with Montessori education the profound words of Dr. Montessori that briefly encapsulate her philosophical approach to education: “Follow the child…”. Dr. Montessori believed wholeheartedly that we have so much to learn from our children as they venture forth each day to experience the joys and hardships of growth and development.
These valuable lessons for adults do not need to fade away as our children transition into adolescence. We can learn a lot from the developing minds and personalities of the teens in our lives, too. In his book Brainstorm: The Power and Purpose of the Teenage Brain,* Dr. Daniel Siegel claims that the greatest myth about adolescence is that it is a period of life that “we need to just get through and survive.”
These four developmental qualities are inherent in the adolescent mind and can be admired for their life-enhancing value. What adults can learn as we observe and guide the young people in our lives is the importance of cultivating the fruits of these healthy qualities in our own lives. These are areas of everyday living that tend to get stifled by the many responsibilities and pressure of adult life; but, with some effort, they can be rediscovered and harnessed for their life-enhancing and transformative potential.
For the adolescent, however, Dr. Siegel points out that these four qualities also have their stumbling blocks. Along with these positive qualities come the adolescent’s vulnerability to peer pressure, the lack of direction and purpose they may feel that would otherwise help them thrive, the impulsivity and risk-taking, and a lack of consideration of consequences for their actions. Viewed together, the downsides of these important qualities all speak to the adolescent’s need to learn resilience. While adolescents are “wired” to have a beautiful and creative zest for life, they are also wired to experience frequent setbacks and failures.
So what do we do when failure presents itself in our children and students? Dr. Montessori not only suggested that we “follow the child,” she went on to say that we should “follow the child as their leader.” While we can seek inspiration from the minds of young people, they seek wisdom and guidance from the adults in their lives. And what they often need most of all from us is to learn the art of resilience.