November naturally brings our awareness to seasonal shifts and togetherness. It’s a time of abundance, harvest, and ultimately gratitude for the life we are given. Finding space to express our gratitude is a universal quality that certainly can be cultivated early. Maria Montessori understood this well, and one can find this reflected in the very principles we hold dear each and every day. In fact, a large part of our curriculum is centered around the concept of Grace and Courtesy. Grace and Courtesy lessons offer the child many opportunities to practice their manners with one another.
Grace & Courtesy Lessons
We start in small ways and branch out into the larger community. For example, we learn how to introduce oneself, how to open and shut a door, how to say ‘excuse me’ or offer help if one bumps into another, how to offer a gift, how to walk around another’s work, and so on. Grace and Courtesy lessons are offered naturally throughout our work periods so that children have the tools to gracefully move about their environments and are equipped with the phrasing to use when life inevitably bumps into them!
Maria Montessori said, “A child who becomes a master of his acts through repeated exercises of grace and courtesy, and who has been encouraged by the pleasant and interesting activities in which he has been engaged, is a child filled with health and joy and remarkable for his calmness and discipline.”
Practicing at Home
We hope that this season will inspire families to practice their own unique Grace and Courtesy in the home. Perhaps this translates as working with your Elementary age child on baking projects, making greeting cards to share, or checking on a neighbor who may be in need.
Cultivating the patience and skill needed to sit through a longer family meal time with your Toddler or Primary age child can be a challenge this holiday season. To help, practice and role play how to politely ask for more of something, or how to say no thank you, how to pass a dish, and how to serve oneself.
Children love to help, so offer opportunities at any age to assist with the food preparation, setting the table, or even create a dish of their own. This will help your child feel a sense of belonging and empowerment that they will carry with them into the future. Ultimately, allowing the space for everyone to contribute, to feel included and valued, will open up more reflection when that important question is asked: “So what are you grateful for?”
Three Good Things Gratitude Activity
In our day-to-day lives, it’s easy to get caught up in the things that go wrong and feel like we’re living under our own private rain cloud; at the same time, we tend to adapt to the good things and people in our lives, taking them for granted. As a result, we often overlook everyday beauty and goodness—a kind gesture from a stranger, or the warmth of the sun on a chilly morning. In the process, we frequently miss opportunities for happiness and connection.
A simple, conscious gratitude practice can help counterbalance those tendencies. Although emotions like disappointment are natural and serve an important purpose, it can be draining to focus all our attention on them. By remembering and listing three positive things that happened in your day—and considering what caused them—you tune into the sources of goodness in your life. It’s a habit that can change the emotional tone of your day, energizing you with positive feelings of gratitude—which may be why this practice is associated with significant increases in happiness.
Each day for at least one week, write down three things that went well for you today, and provide an explanation for why they went well. It’s important to create a physical record of your items by writing them down. These can be small, everyday events or more important milestones such as, “My partner made the coffee today,” “My grandparents were happy when I brought them groceries,” or “I earned a big promotion.”
By giving yourself the space to focus on the positive, this practice teaches you to notice, remember, and savor the better things in life. It may prompt you to pay closer attention to positive events down the road and engage in them more fully—both in the moment and later on, when you can reminisce and share these experiences with others. Reflecting on the cause of the event may help attune you to the deeper sources of goodness in your life, fostering a mindset of gratitude.
Podcast Episode: 100 Good Things
We wish you all a safe and happy holiday season!