Connection from Birth & Beyond

In the ever-evolving landscape of child rearing and education, the dialogue around creating and maintaining deep connections with our children remains paramount. Recently, we had the privilege of hosting Dr. Eric Dustman — a renowned figure in educational studies with a focus on empathy and the Montessori educational philosophy — at our live Guiding Grow event. Dr. Dustman shared invaluable insights on fostering connection from birth and beyond, a topic that resonates with many parents, educators, and caregivers. 

Acknowledging the Land

Before delving into the discussion, it is crucial to acknowledge the traditional custodians of the land, the Darug people, and pay respects to elders past, present, and future, highlighting the importance of the memories, traditions, and culture of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people here in Australia. 

The Journey into Montessori

Dr. Dustman’s journey into Montessori education is as intriguing as it is enlightening. Originally embarked on a path towards architecture, his career trajectory took a pivotal shift towards education. His initial tryst with Montessori came through personal connections and led him on a path where his passion for spaces and environments—akin to the Montessori prepared environments—could be married with his dedication to child development. This journey emphasizes the role of personal experiences in shaping our professional lives and the serendipitous nature of finding one’s calling. 

The Essence of Connection

A cornerstone of Dr. Dustman’s message revolves around the concept of connection between parents and children. He advocates for a relationship built on respect, age appropriateness, and the establishment of limits. Dr. Dustman eloquently discusses the balance between treating children for their age and abilities, steering clear of treating them either as helpless infants regardless of age, or burdening them with responsibilities beyond their years. This balance, as he suggests, is crucial for fostering a healthy developmental environment where children feel respected, understood, and safe. 

The Challenges of Building Connection

In today’s fast-paced world, maintaining a connection can seem daunting. The shift in societal expectations, evolving family structures, and the constant struggle to find time amidst busy schedules pose significant obstacles. Dr. Dustman emphasizes the importance of being present and genuinely engaging with children as key strategies to overcome these hurdles. Recognizing and valuing the emotions and expressions of children, even when they are too young to articulate them verbally, is vital in building a strong, empathetic foundation. 

Empathy and Discipline

One of the most poignant parts of the discussion was on discipline and its role in connection building. Discipline, when approached with empathy and understanding, can reinforce rather than detract from the bond between child and parent. Acknowledging feelings, providing guidance, and showing consistency form the bedrock on which children learn to navigate their emotions and interactions. 


Dr. Eric Dustman’s insights shed light on the profound and intricate journey of building connections with our children from birth and beyond. His emphasis on respect, understanding, and empathy as pillars of this journey offers both hope and direction for parents and educators alike. As we navigate the challenges of modern parenting and education, it’s clear that fostering these connections is not just beneficial but essential for the healthy development of our children and the strengthening of our families. In essence, the journey of connection is a continuous process of learning, understanding, and growing together — a path well worth traversing.

Meet our distinguished guest

Dr. Eric Dustman is a parent to three children, holds a masters in education, a PhD in Educational Studies with an emphasis on empathy, author, and head of school for The Montessori School of Maui. Dr. Dustman has been fortunate to live and work in Ohio, Qingdao China, and now Maui, Hawai’i. He has used these experiences to inform his approach as a researcher, educator, and independent school head. Immersed in efforts to develop schools and people over his professional lifetime, he has sought to gain a greater personal understanding about empathy in children and the value of connection. For those interested in learning more about Dr. Dustman’s work or reaching out to him directly, visit or contact him via email at

Join the

Childhood Potential Club

Join the Montessori Hub for Parents & Educators to equip you with practical and high quality Montessori resources to help you nurture the limitless potential of every child.