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If there is one thing that I have learned through my years in Montessori education, it is that children are capable of far more than we give them credit for. This goes for the toddler who is able to pour water from a toddler-sized pitcher and put on his or her own coat to a fourth-grader who shares insights one would not expect of a child that age. Children are limited only by our expectations.

The question becomes, how do we balance high expectations without stressing children? How do we make sure that our assurances of their capabilities don’t feel like too much pressure? This is not a new question, but one that appears to be asked more and more. As simple as it may sound, one of the best ways to accomplish this is to know the children. Some of us need to be pushed to accomplish our goals. Others are more self-driven, not needing anyone to remind us or encourage us to do more or work harder.

Think about the circumstances that urge you to do your best work. Is it with someone giving you encouragement, support and raising the bar higher and higher? Or, do you find that internally? Do external pushes and prompts feel like pressure to you? We are each different. The key is the relationship, the belief in each child’s abilities, and the bar being set at the proper height for children to thrive.