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Her philosophy taught me to view my child as a capable, curious individual deserving of respect from the very beginning

How the Teachings of Maria Montessori, L.R. Knost, and Alfie Kohn Shaped My Parenting Approach

How the Teachings of Maria Montessori, L.R. Knost, and Alfie Kohn Shaped My Parenting Approach

As a parent who has navigated the complex and often challenging journey of raising a child, I’ve found solace, guidance, and inspiration in three key philosophies that have profoundly shaped my approach to parenting. If I were to distil the essence of what has made me a more conscious, aware, and somewhat effective parent, it would be these three concepts: the teachings of Maria Montessori, the practice of gentle parenting as advocated by L.R. Knost, and the principles of unconditional parenting championed by Alfie Kohn.

Parenting, as I’ve learned, is not just a role but a journey - one that is filled with moments of both joy and doubt, triumphs and setbacks. Like any parent, I’ve had my share of moments that I’m not particularly proud of when I wish to turn back the clock and choose a different reaction or approach. These moments, though painful, have also been instrumental in my growth as a parent. They’ve taught me the value of reflection, the importance of being kind to myself, and the need to learn and adapt continuously.

In my journey, the first guiding light has been the teachings of Maria Montessori. Her philosophy taught me to view my child as a capable, curious individual deserving of respect from the very beginning. The Montessori approach at home has been about creating an environment that supports my child’s natural desire to learn and grow, fostering independence and a genuine love for learning. It’s a reminder that children are not empty vessels to be filled but active participants in their own development.

Then there’s gentle parenting practice, beautifully articulated by L.R. Knost. This approach has been a beacon in times of turmoil, reminding me to lead with empathy and understanding. It’s about connecting with my child on a deep emotional level, recognizing their feelings, and responding with compassion. Gentle parenting has taught me the power of empathetic communication and the importance of being a calm, nurturing presence in my child’s life.

Lastly, Alfie Kohn’s principles of unconditional parenting have been a cornerstone in those challenging moments - and let’s be honest, parenting is replete with those. His philosophy emphasizes the importance of loving and supporting my child unconditionally, irrespective of their behaviour or achievements. It’s a powerful reminder that my role is to be a steady, supportive presence, offering love and guidance, especially when times are tough.

As a parent deeply committed to nurturing and guiding my child to the best of my abilities, I’ve been profoundly influenced by the philosophies of Maria Montessori, L.R. Knost, and Alfie Kohn. Each of these approaches has not only shaped my parenting style but also offered me invaluable insights into the complexities of child-rearing. Having delved into each of these philosophies, I’ve noticed several striking similarities that beautifully converge to create a harmonious approach to parenting. I would like to share these similarities, drawn from the rich tapestry of these three philosophies, to offer fellow parents a cohesive understanding of how these approaches can work together to enhance our parenting journey.

As I’ve found, these similarities are not just theoretical concepts but practical tools that have guided me in everyday parenting scenarios. They’ve helped me navigate the ups and downs of parenthood with a sense of purpose and understanding. Whether fostering my child’s independence, communicating with empathy, or providing unconditional love, these philosophies have been instrumental in helping me build a strong, nurturing, and respectful relationship with my child. In sharing these similarities, I hope to offer other parents a glimpse into the powerful synergy these approaches can bring to the parenting experience.

Below is my humble attempt to provide an overview of the overlaps and synergies in the approaches of Montessori at home, L.R. Knost’s gentle parenting, and Alfie Kohn’s unconditional parenting. I’ll delve into a more detailed exploration of how these philosophies complement each other, offering a deeper explanation for each overlapping aspect, complemented by relevant quotes. This synthesis of ideas has not only been enlightening in my own parenting journey, but I believe it can also offer valuable insights to other parents seeking a cohesive and nurturing approach to raising their children.

Fostering Independence

Montessori at Home: It emphasizes creating an environment that encourages children to explore and learn independently. It’s about preparing the home in a way that allows children to engage in activities that develop their skills and self-sufficiency safely. Maria Montessori’s philosophy is encapsulated in her quote, “Never help a child with a task at which he feels he can succeed.”

L.R. Knost: Knost’s gentle parenting approach aligns with this by emphasizing the importance of allowing children to navigate their own experiences. It’s about guiding rather than controlling, enabling children to develop their problem-solving skills and confidence. Knost eloquently puts this as, “Guide them instead of controlling them.”

Alfie Kohn: Kohn’s approach complements these by focusing on the long-term benefits of allowing children to make their own choices and learn from their experiences, even if they encounter difficulties. He believes in the value of these experiences for building resilience, as he states, “When we constantly step in to prevent children from failing, we rob them of the experiences that help them learn to cope with variability and uncertainty.”

Emphasizing Empathy and Understanding

Montessori at Home: Montessori parenting is not just about physical independence but also about understanding and respecting the child’s emotional and psychological world. It involves observing the child to understand their needs and feelings better. Montessori herself highlighted the importance of this understanding with her quote, “The things he sees are not just remembered; they form part of his soul. He incarnates in himself all in the world about him that his eyes see, and his ears hear.”

L.R. Knost: Knost’s philosophy strongly emphasizes empathetic communication, understanding children’s feelings, and responding to them with compassion. It’s about creating a nurturing environment where children feel valued and understood. Knost reflects this sentiment: “It’s not our job to toughen our children up to face a cruel and heartless world. It’s our job to raise children who will make the world a little less cruel and heartless.”

Alfie Kohn: Similarly, Kohn advocates for a deep understanding of the reasons behind a child’s behaviour, suggesting that parents should look beyond surface behaviour to the emotions and needs underneath. This understanding is vital to responding in a supportive rather than punitive way. Kohn explains, “What matters is not how we feel about our kids’ behaviour but how they experience those feelings and what they decide those feelings mean about them.”

Positive Discipline Approach

Montessori at Home: In Montessori parenting, discipline is about guiding rather than punishing. It’s based on the idea that children learn better from natural consequences and respectful communication. The goal is to help children develop self-discipline and an understanding of their actions. Montessori’s approach to discipline aligns with her belief in the child’s ability to learn and grow, as she stated, “True discipline is seen in the child who has been given the liberty to follow his own interests and who spontaneously demonstrates self-control and adherence to the rules of his environment.’”

L.R. Knost: Knost also promotes positive discipline strategies, focusing on teaching and guiding rather than punishing. She believes in using discipline as an opportunity to educate and nurture, not as a means of control. Knost emphasizes this approach by saying: “Discipline is helping a child solve a problem. Punishment is making a child suffer for having a problem.”

Alfie Kohn: Kohn’s approach is in harmony with these ideas, as he criticizes traditional punitive discipline methods. He suggests understanding and problem-solving are more effective and humane ways to address behavioural issues. Kohn’s perspective is reflected in his statement, “Punitive consequences... can lead children to focus on the badness of their punishment rather than the badness of their behaviour.”

Encouraging Intrinsic Motivation

Montessori at Home: It encourages children to engage in activities driven by their own interests and curiosity, fostering intrinsic motivation. Montessori believed that when children are allowed to pursue their own interests, they develop a natural love of learning. As Montessori puts it, “The child who concentrates is immensely happy.”

L.R. Knost: Knost’s philosophy aligns with this by advocating for a parenting approach that nurtures a child’s natural curiosity and desire to learn rather than using external rewards or punishments. She emphasizes the role of a supportive environment in fostering a child’s internal motivation.

Alfie Kohn: Kohn’s approach is strongly aligned with this idea. He argues against using rewards and punishments, which he believes can undermine intrinsic motivation. Kohn suggests, “The more we want our children to want to do something and do it well, the more counterproductive it will be to reward them for doing it.”

Role of the Parent

Montessori at Home: In this approach, the parent’s role is to facilitate the child’s learning by providing an environment conducive to exploration and growth. The parent acts more as a guide than a director. Montessori emphasized this with, “Let the child be the guide.”

L.R. Knost: Knost views parents as empathetic nurturers and protectors, emphasizing the importance of building a strong, loving relationship with children. She asserts, “Life is amazing, and then it’s awful... And then it’s amazing again... And in between... you’re beloved and cherished.”

Alfie Kohn: Kohn sees parents as key to providing unconditional love and support. He focuses on the emotional connection and the long-term impact of parenting strategies on the child’s development. Kohn notes, “Our job is not to change our children’s behaviour. It’s to be with them.”

Modelling Behaviour

Montessori at Home: It holds that children learn by observing and imitating. Therefore, parents are encouraged to model the behaviours and values they wish to instil in their children. Montessori said, “The child has a mind able to absorb knowledge. He has the power to teach himself.”

L.R. Knost: Knost also emphasizes the importance of modelling the behaviour parents want to see in their children. She believes children learn to interact with the world mainly by observing their parents. Knost states, “What we are teaches the child more than what we say, so we must be what we want our children to become.”

Alfie Kohn: Kohn agrees that parents should model the values and behaviours they wish to encourage in their children. Parents effectively teach their children these values by behaving empathetically and respectfully. Kohn suggests, “Kids learn what they live. So, if we want them to learn respect, we have to treat them respectfully.”

Holistic Development

Montessori at Home: It focuses on the development of the whole child, addressing their physical, emotional, social, and cognitive growth. Montessori believed in nurturing each aspect of a child’s development, as she stated, “We cannot create observers by saying ‘observe,’ but by giving them the power and the means for this observation.”

L.R. Knost: Knost’s philosophy also emphasizes the holistic development of children. She believes in nurturing not just the intellectual or behavioural aspects but also children’s emotional and spiritual well-being. Knost says, “Every day, in a hundred small ways, our children ask, ‘Do you hear me? Do you see me? Do I matter?’ Their behaviour often reflects our response.”

Alfie Kohn: Kohn’s approach aligns with holistic development by focusing on children’s emotional and psychological well-being as much as their behavioural outcomes. He emphasizes the importance of addressing children’s underlying needs and feelings, believing this is key to their overall development.


In sharing these insights and the interplay between Montessori at home, L.R. Knost’s gentle parenting, and Alfie Kohn’s unconditional parenting, I am acutely aware that each parenting journey is as unique as the child at its heart. What resonates and works for one family may not for another, and that’s the beauty of this journey. It’s a path of discovery, not just for our children but for us as parents, too.

I hope that in sharing these overlaps and how they’ve woven into my own experience, I’ve provided some food for thought, a spark of inspiration, or even just a moment of recognition. Whether you find a piece of your own parenting style reflected here or discover new ideas to explore, remember that the essence of good parenting lies in the love and intention behind our actions.

As we navigate the highs and lows, the triumphs and challenges of raising our children, let’s do so with the understanding that there’s no one-size-fits-all approach. Each day presents an opportunity to learn, grow, and love more deeply. If this exploration of these three influential parenting philosophies has offered even a small measure of support or guidance on your unique journey, then it has fulfilled its purpose.


Let’s continue to share, learn, and grow in our roles as parents, always remembering that the most profound lessons often come from the little ones we are guiding.


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