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Nurturing the Authentic Child

What is the meaning of Authentic? It is derived from the Greek root authentiko, which means “author”. The Authentic Child is a child who is allowed to develop or “author” himself. There are five essential attributes of the Authentic Child. These attributes are deeply connected to the child’s inherent sense of self-worth.

  • Vulnerability
  • Reason (the inborn ability to recognize truth)
  • Dependence
  • Appropriate immaturity (the ability to act one’s own age)
  • Exuberant energy.

Maria Montessori became aware of the Authentic Child over 100 years ago. By careful observation, she found the spiritual treasures that children own. As she designed her Montessori classrooms to meet the child’s developmental needs and interests, these spiritual treasures came to light, revealing to her the idea of the “Authentic Child”.  This in turn lead her to define the following traits of the Authentic Montessori Child:

  • Self-Confident
  • Independent
  • Cooperative
  • Thoughtful
  • Helpful
  • Joyful Learners
  • Internally Motivated
  • Peaceful
Children whose authenticity has been squelched by well-meaning but often hurried or stressed adults, display other traits such as being uncooperative, bossy, self-centered, insecure, disruptive, willful, withdrawn, externally motivated, and seeming to lack interest or concentration.
Maria Montessori said “It is only the power of Love that can enable the adult to come close enough to the child to understand him. Love and humility will unlock for us “the secret of childhood.” (The Secret of Childhood. Ballentine Books. 1982) Montessori believed that we must nurture the true spirit of the child in order to unveil their true potential, thus leading to a more peaceful and prosperous world.

Although parents and teachers must work together to protect the authenticity and innocence of the child, it is the influence of the parent that is most significant.  The Montessori parent

  • Recognizes the child’s authentic nature regardless of behavior.
  • Is patient and reflects the child’s light and spiritual treasures.
  • Is centered in love.
  • Models peace
  • Creates home and school environments which support authenticity.

How can this happen? What does this look like?  Using Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, parents can encourage authenticity in their children.


Physiological Needs

  • Regular, healthy meals
  • Good sleeping habits
  • Comfortable home environment
  • Appropriate clothing
  • Good health

Safety Needs

  • Regular routines
  • Consistent patterns
  • Safe home environment
  • Supportive emotional climate
  • Sensible boundaries

Belonging Needs

  • Involvement & contribution
  • Empowerment
  • Justice & fairness
  • Withdrawal from conflict

Esteem Needs

  • Unconditional love
  • Mutual respect
  • Appreciation
  • Independence
  • Confidence in child’s abilities

Self-Actualization Needs

  • Love of learning
  • Enthusiastic role models
  • Opportunities to learn
  • Effective communication

Parents also nurture authenticity by teaching effective communication and problem-solving skills. They shy away from the “Reward and Punishment” model, acknowledging that it stifles the child’s development of self-discipline by taking away the opportunity for them to make their own decisions and learn by logical and natural consequences.

Children have are innately driven to manifest their own will and potential. The way they construct themselves is the “secret” of childhood. As adults, it is ever so important that we respect this inner construct and honor and preserve their authentic nature. .

Susan Curley Owner and Directress