Children are so capable. We often overlook their abilities due to the demands of OUR day and OUR schedules. Children who are immersed in an environment that fosters independence and confidence are content, happy and satisfied as they feel a regular sense of success and control.
As a parent, it is difficult sometimes to give up a sense of control to someone so small and that we may deem as dependent simply because they came from us. We have seen them from day one and often misjudge their readiness because it tugs on our heartstrings. Maybe they won’t need us anymore? To some it is comforting to know our little people are dependent on us. It allows us to feel loved by feeling needed.
Changing this thought process can be difficult but quite powerful. Paula Polk Lillard said, Montessori is for you “…if you can raise your child knowing that he belongs not to you but to himself and that your job as a parent is one of temporary privilege and responsibility; the aiding and observing of another life as it unfolds.” There is a new sense of pride and satisfaction that overpowers other less desirable feelings of dependency, inadequacy, and enabling. As parents we should focus on striving to raise noble, confident, capable young people. This is done more successfully by building line up line, from the time our little ones are infants to adulthood, success upon success.
In the formative years, it is important for a child to feel a sense of security and love. Allow your child to struggle through some safe experiences. Allowing them to take each new step toward success in each new area of their life requires consistent support and encouragement. Understanding when to step back and when you are not needed allows for a successful separation later.
Take care to take note of messages you send as their parent at different times of struggle and completion. For instance, if your child is focused on trying to put their shoes on alone, you see it is taking some time and you may be running late, try to remain patient, calm, and silent. If your child is focused, concentrating and gets the shoes on after a little struggle, but they are not on the proper feet, LEAVE THEM BE. Congratulate them on their achievement of completion. Praise them concretely for working so hard on this task. You may ask if the shoes feel comfortable on their feet but by allowing them to leave the house with dignity intact and confidence soaring, their spirits remain whole.
Allow for further independence in the home by altering your child’s clothing storage so they are able to access and make choices for themselves when dressing. You as the parent still have control in this situation by selecting WHAT they have access too. A drawer with socks, underclothing, a drawer with pants and shirts or dresses hanging on a low rack can contain a few selections versus an overwhelming account of everything they own. Your child will develop trust in themselves through this process of taking into account the weather and the type of activities they will participate in. There may be some trial and error. Allow for the error. Clothes may end up on backwards or inside out but this does not last very long. There should not be added pressure to hurry due to your time constraints. Adjust accordingly to allow ample time for your child to dress. Once completed, your child will feel a tremendous amount of self-esteem knowing they are accomplishing this task, so encouraging through concrete praise once again is most appropriate. There is no need for reward. Their feelings of accomplishment will be enough. A child has simply longed to be accepted by the adult world and a gentle, encouraging hug or smile without the words or looks of discontent are very important.
Your loving support as the parent in an environment that is now meeting their changing developmental needs teaches that your child is capable, enough, wise and noble. There are many more ways to foster this independence within the home, while out on errands and in public places. Allow your child to walk whenever it is safe. Slow your pace to meet theirs. Ask if they want help before assuming they even need it. Children yearn to be doing the tasks they have seen done within the home their whole lives. Allow for more time. Children need more time. Learn to follow your child. Let them imitate the actions within the environments they find themselves. Paying careful attention to our efforts of communication and correction and slowing our reactions will go a long distance in your child’s development. Michael Olaf stated, “How many of us would be better at ‘loving ourselves exactly the way we are’ if our own attempts at self-construction had been respected early in life? There is a connection.” We are helping to lay a foundation for the rest of their lives. The world is a wonderful place to be, why not do all we can as parents to foster trust and a positive self-image.