My daughter was diagnosed with an eye condition at 2.5 years old, and has to wear spectacles. E (not me!) can and should be in charge of her spectacles, so that she can experience responsibility and care of self at an age-appropriate level. Therefore, I don’t use stickers and rewards to motivate E to keep her glasses on. And because I have an older son who doesn’t need glasses, I also do not want to over-hype or praise E for wearing glasses to the point that my son feels he is missing out by being normally-sighted (he actually came to me and said he wanted to wear glasses too). Instead, I tried some Montessori/ gentle parenting-inspired techniques to help her develop the internal discipline of wearing her glasses constantly and handling them carefully, rather than me constantly enforcing it externally.
1. Use reverse psychology
The optometrist had warned us that children would fling their glasses everywhere and refuse to wear them for long periods of time, as part of their adjustment to glasses. I wasn’t keen to start off on such a footing. I wanted E to treasure her spectacles. So I used abit of reverse psychology.
For the first 3-4 days, E did not wear glasses at all. Each night, I would carefully take out the glasses from her glasses case. Holding the glasses by the hinges, I would tell her, “These are glasses. They help us see well but they break easily, so we have to hold them like this.” I would then give a three-period lesson on the various parts of the glasses, using our trusty Visual Dictionary (importance of language and naming parts of the whole here). (I also introduced hinges and temple tips.)
Of course, by the time I was done detailing the parts of the glasses, E was hankering to try the glasses on. To which I would respond, “Are you sure you want to wear the glasses? You don’t have to…” Then I would let her try it on but only for a minute, and have her return her glasses to the glasses case holding them by the hinges. In this way, she not only wanted to wear her glasses, but do so carefully.
2. Give the glasses a home
Nothing worse than turning the house upside-down to locate lost glasses, so we have this glasses case that stays in the same place on her dresser everyday, so she knows where to find her specs. (Even a soap dish or small tray would do.)
When we travelled to three different cities last month, I would find a prominent and accessible spot for the glasses case (usually the corner of a coffee table), where it would stay for the duration of our travels.
3. Subtly emphasise the importance of seeing clearly
Even though the reverse psychology helped, there were times when E was still adjusting and would take off her spectacles. When that happened, my wonderful AMI trainer (tips from the Montessori in the Home course here) suggested I try some positive but subtle redirection. I would point out something tiny in the distance and say, “Did you see that bird/ spider/ bee? Let’s put on your spectacles so you can have a better look!”
4. Glasses polishing
Another way that my trainer suggested I respond when E took off her glasses was to ask, “Oh, are they smudged? Should we clean them?” I would then polish them and replace them on her nosebridge. This reinforces the concept that glasses are meant to be worn all the time, except when they need polishing, or nap/bath/bedtimes.
Recently I set up a polishing tray so she could polish her own glasses, with a pipette, a jar of water, and a jar containing cotton facial pads. Not pictured but would be helpful: a chamois cloth to dry the spectacles.
(Another practical, low-cost polishing activity to for children to care for environment and develop a gentle touch: leaf polishing.)
5. Glasses-themed activities
We also have some activities out on trays for both E and her brother to work with.
A tray that introduces different ways of seeing (two magnifying glasses and binoculars)
Gluing glasses: pattern construction with circles and rectangles that I cut out from the same wrapping paper. The oval cardboards are actually from our tissue boxes, they are stiffer than regular paper and hold up well for little hands.
Help the doll wear glasses. I thought this would pose a fine motor and balance challenge, but E came to me and whispered (she never whispers), “the baby doll is so scary” and that was the end of that 😂
(Dollplay is so important for imagination, empathy and making sense of one’s situation- a bathe the doll activity here.)
6. Normalise glasses-wearing by showing children related art and books.
A lovely sketch by Dick Bruna that I was contemplating letting E use as a coloring sheet, but thought it quite artistic and minimalist, so I framed it over the children’s table (see more of our children’s art spaces here).
It was super-hard to find realistic books (why we avoid fantasy, and how to choose Montessori-friendly children’s books here) on bespectacled kids until I stumbled upon this one!
It’s a short, catchy read that doesn’t mention rewards or prettiness. I wish there were more Asian kids featured, but my aunt sent me her 6yo son’s bespectacled photo, so I will be personalising this book by inserting his photo at the back. (Why we should handmake and display handmade in the home, here.)
And this one on Helen Keller, to inspire E that she can achieve great things no matter how well she sees.
This page is quite Montessori in describing how language is not learnt by rote but experienced through the senses.
We also got our community to help encourage E to wear specs. We befriended our local optician, and will stop by just to say hi. Before Skype calls back home, I also request bespectacled family members to make a point of putting on their glasses “so I can see you clearly”.
And a word from my husband: It has been about three months since E began wearing glasses. She took 2-3 weeks to get used to her glasses. It’s now part and parcel of her daily life and she rarely needs reminders to put it on. It’s especially cute how she remembers her glasses have a home: before showering, she will place her glasses on the bunny case without fail and come back to the bathroom.