Focus on the process, not the product

As many of you know, for the five years after college I was a preschool teacher in Montessori classrooms.  I was very intrigued my Maria Montessori and her methods, but what struck me most was her philosophy.  There are quite a few key Montessori philosophies that I subscribe to, but today I want to share one that’s near and dear to my heart.  Montessori said, “It’s the process, not the product.”

What she meant is that for young people, it’s the process of learning that is to be enjoyed and savored.  Too often we put the emphasis on our kid’s paintings, drawings, or little cut out shapes, but we forget that it’s the experience of painting, drawing, and cutting that matter most to our child’s development.

For children, it’s easy to enjoy the process because they haven’t yet been conditioned to value product over process.  You can see evidence of this in that many three or four year olds will spend time creating a piece of artwork only to forget it at school or toss it aside when it’s finished.  We are the ones who teach children to value their art by featuring it on the refrigerator or espousing it’s many wonderful qualities.  But is our value of product over process something we really want to teach our kids?

What if instead we supported their innate experience that the present moment is really all there is?  What if we agreed with them that the feeling of the sand moving through their fingers is just as valuable as an ornate sand castle?  I imagine kids would experience a lot less frustration if we stood behind the idea that the process matters even more than the final product.  After all, it’s often when they “mess up” that kids get frustrated, but if messing up was actually expected and enjoyed for it’s teaching value, it would inevitably be much less painful.

So this week, focus on the process and let go of your attachment to the final product.  Remember, the more fun kids have as they learn new things, the more likely they are to continue to develop a lifelong love of learning.  Consider activities you can do with your kids that are process oriented such as water play and shaving cream finger painting.  And if you do something that is more product oriented, focus on the process!  See how much fun you can have working on a puzzle together, playing a game, or building something.  And when it’s all finished, don’t make a big deal about the finished product.  Instead, remind your child how much fun it was to work together on it.

I would love to hear your thoughts and experiences with this concept.  Does it speak to you?  Are there times when you’ve seen the benefit of focusing on the process and letting go of the final product?  Please share a thought or story in the comment box below.

And have a wonderful week, Shelly

9 comments
pjrdoc
pjrdoc

It is my opinion that the final product of music performance will have far greater benefit to the performer and the audience when the process of discovering and learning all the aspects of that work is enjoyed.The process is about the joy of discovery.Ponder that idea!!

I am a process person.  The final concert matters little to me, in that it takes care of itself since the students take pride in the project during the process of discovering its wonderful parts.  They take ownership and produce the product with pride and excellence.

DBrandt
DBrandt

Love how eloquently you describe 'It's the process not the proiduct'... I teach preschool where our philosophy is to educate the whole child. When a child shows me a painting or drawing I will ask: "Would you like to tell me about it?" if they say no I'll describe some of the colors or lines I see: "I see you used green, purple and yellow" & I might mention the shape of the lines etc... I feel this is one way of valuing their process :) 

I look forward to receiving your Newsletter!


Shelly
Shelly

Thanks for sharing everybody! I really love reading about your experiences at home with your kids (or your charges). I love "The Power of Now" by Eckhart Tolle and the practice of enjoying the present moment. I think children can often be our best teachers of this challenging skill. And it sure is sad to see them losing their ability to enjoy the now so early these days. Thanks to all of you for your efforts to help kids remember to enjoy the process! Warm hugs to all.

Sherris Berner
Sherris Berner

This is tough. I do enjoy letting my kids know that the end product they come up with is wonderful, if it touches me in a certain way. Such as my son that usually draws with brown or black crayons brought home a picture of a rainbow with big blue hearts under it and said specifically that he made this for me. I was a little melted by this and couldn't help but to hang it up. I still consistently look at all of his artwork and if it is something that I do not understand I ask him to tell me what it is. I have had to remind him though that when he is at home making something and comparing it to what his little sister is making that it is about the enjoyment of doing it. I have also had to tell them if they keep comparing, that one of them or both of them will have to stop participating. I guess this can be confusing for them.
If anyone would get a wrapped Christmas presant from me this year though they would quickly realize that I am not all about the product. My three year old has shown increased interest in helping this year. Simply putting the tape on is not enough now; she wants to cut the paper, fold the corners, and put the tape on to help me. This has been a lot of fun for both of us and if someone is getting a gift they are just going to rip up the paper anyways.

mummojo
mummojo

Thanks for this post, it was really thought-provoking. As the mother of two little girls, I have seen with sadness how quickly they go from enjoying the process to being concerned about the end result. Within a few months of starting school, my elder daughter (who had previously adored anything creative) would rip up a drawing because it wasn't "right"! I realise that I'm guilty of sometimes putting too much emphasis on the product, too, so your post has reminded me to watch out for this. Thank you very much.

Jacque
Jacque

Yes, I am actually trying to focus on living more in the moment and I absolutely do believe the process is more important than the outcome. I am currently studying Eckhart Tolle who wrote several books where he speaks of this including " The Power of Now", " Awakening to Your Life's Purpose" and "Stillness Speaks. " In fact if you go to Oprah.com you can catch a weekly podcast w/ Eckhart on his book Awakening to Yor Life's Purpose which is actually a rerun of last year and he is on I think chapter 4. It's on Mon. nights ( check it out @ oprah.com ) Being in the moment is EVERYTHING!

Christee
Christee

Artists often try to work this way, especially when working in a new medium. I certainly found it enjoyable as a rookie starting to do artwork. The play and experimentation is truly the best part!!

Giovanna
Giovanna

I hadn't thought us this before, and I'm so glad you wrote a blog about it! I don't have my own kids yet, but the two boys I babysit (4 and 7) constantly compare each others work when they are coloring or drawing, and will quit if they think one is doing "better" than the other. It's really sad, and I wasn't sure where it was coming from... but I guess you could say that they are really "product oriented"!

Off topic... but I am curious about how you became a Montessori teacher. I am interested in doing the same, or at least homeschooling my children Montessori style. As far as I know there are only training programs in New York and Colorado. Do you just have to get an ordinary masters in education? I can't imagine how a typical education training can prepare you to teach in such an atypical manner and environment...

AwakeShelly
AwakeShelly moderator

@DBrandt Yes! I love your approach :) I hope you like the newsletter and thanks for your comment!

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