A Tribute To Mary Hartzell, MEd:  Author, Child Development Specialist, Parent Educator

Mary Hartzell was a gift to this world and to the children, parents and teachers whose lives she so warmly touched and made better.

“To live in hearts we leave behind is not to die.”

Her accomplishments reflect her dedication to helping parents and teachers understand how to relate to children to help them feel secure, loved, and respected. This, in turn, laid the foundation for those children to be able to create meaningful, caring relationships in their own lives.

Mary Hartzell

A Revolutionary Thinker

During the 30 years that Mary was the full-time director of First Presbyterian Nursery School, a nationally recognized early childhood program in Santa Monica, California, she revolutionized how parents and teachers interacted with children. Her introduction and integration of the Reggio Approach, which empowers children to develop their own powers of thinking, was an inspired progressive change.

There is a pedagogy of listening that gives respect to each individual’s ideas within the context of the community and a give and take between children as they talk and solve problems together. Most of the learning takes place in small groups, which promotes deepening levels of thinking. Children are provoked by others’ questions. Everyday there is engaged, dynamic learning!

-Mary Hartzell as quoted in Goop

Mary Hartzell’s reputation for being an extraordinary counselor and expert on child development and parenting led to appearances on National Public Radio and CBS News.

Her advice helped change many difficult morning routines and may help change yours. This excerpt is taken from an interview with Mary Hartzell in Goop Magazine:

When everyday routines aren’t working well, talk with your children about the problem and include them in a conversation about possible solutions. Ask them what they think would help solve the problem. When we include children in the process of making a plan they are more invested in its success because they have been given the respect of being part of a collaborative problem solving process.

Here’s an example of how you might begin:

What do you think would help us get out of the house on time in the morning because we’ve been late the last three days. It’s just not working. It seems like every morning I’m getting mad and raising my voice and you probably don’t like that. Let’s make a plan so that we can have a pleasant morning and everyone can be ready to leave the house on time.

Inviting your child/children to offer some ideas of what they think could help, makes a significant difference. It helps to have an honest conversation with kids about what’s not working, rather than getting angry at the same thing over and over again every morning. Stop doing what isn’t working. Getting angry at our children in the morning is unlikely to have any positive results. When we’re angry at our children, they’ll often defend themselves by getting angry at us. Sometimes children get mad at us because they think we’re going to get angry at them. When both we and our children are defensive, communication breaks down.

Mary goes on to explain:

Respectful communication is very important to develop, because when we have children, one of the things that we’re doing is we’re essentially telling them who they are. We are giving them an image of themselves, and we want to give them an image of themselves as being confident, capable and lovable.

Author of Internationally-Acclaimed Book

Safe Baby Healthy Child blog post on Tribute to Mary Hartzell her book Parenting From the Inside Out

Mary Hartzell co-wrote the internationally acclaimed book, “Parenting from the Inside Out: How a Deeper Self-Understanding Helps Us Raise Children Who Thrive,” with neurobiologist Daniel Siegel, M.D, clinical professor of psychiatry at the UCLA School of Medicine and Executive Director of the Mindsight Institute. It explored the idea that a parent’s own childhood can affect and shape their parenting.

Becoming a parent can trigger unresolved issues that we may unknowingly carry from our relationships with our own parents, and can interfere with us being the kind of parent we want to be. I work with many parents who are stuck in ineffective relationship patterns with their children. Because our book integrates both left and right brain processing, offering both narrative stories and neuroscience research on the brain and relationships, it offers a hopeful message to parents. The feedback I receive from parents often includes that their other relationships become more satisfying as well.

-Mary Hartzell as quoted in Goop Magazine

Mary Hartzell’s guidance on how to recognize and reflect on trauma from one’s own childhood and not let it undermine the foundation for a loving relationship with one’s child, struck a chord and grateful parents got the word out that this was a must-have parenting book.

Daniel Siegel and Mary Hartzell’s illuminating and inspiring book presents a practical model of parenting that nurtures an emphatic dialogue within oneself and with one’s children. Consequently, parenting becomes not just something that we do, but something that is very much a part of who we are. As a parent of seven children, this book has a permanent spot on my night table!

-Kate Capshaw Spielberg

A Legacy That Lives On

Mary served as president of the North Bay Chapter of the Association for the Education of Young Children, Vice President of the Association of the Child Development Specialists. She was the recipient of the first Pediatric Aids Foundation’s “Hero’s Award” for her work with children and parents. Mary often shared her knowledge at national, state and local conferences of the National Association of the Education of Young Children.

“Mary was a force” says Joanie Martin, longtime director of the Elementary School at Crossroads where Mary’s three children and grandchildren attended. “We saw our children go through Crossroads together. And Mary’s school was the educational beginning for her grandchildren, my grandchildren and scores of Crossroads students.”

Mary Hartzell has helped me immeasurably in my quest to be the best possible parent I can be (I often fail). Her research and hands-on practice both as a teacher, and as the director of First Presbyterian Nursery School in Santa Monica, have enabled her to write and create some of the most invaluable resources for parents. Her book, “Parenting from the Inside Out,” is a must-have for any parent, as are her CDs on Parent/Child relationships. I gave a friend of mine a copy of “Parenting…” and she said, “This book is changing my life. I like my kids again.” Love, gp 

– Gwyneth Paltrow

You can listen to more of Mary Hartzell’s wisdom on these videos:

Acknowledging a child’s feelings
Advice for getting through the witching hour
Advice for when children witness an argument
Bonding by including children in chores
Causes of and responses to emotional triggers’
Different ways to communicate with children
How to deal with stress
Learning to cope with frustration
Overview of preschool
Playing dress up
Tips for helping children to stop biting
Tips for helping children who hit others