This is kinda the catch phrase that sums up Montessori, especially for the toddler, preschool and primary years. How often do we rush in to do something for our children rather than waiting and letting them try for themselves? How often do we just routinely do things for them without even thinking that maybe they could do it? How much easier is it to do something ourselves than to teach and wait for our child to do it? It’s not easy, and even a little scary to let our children be independent, but it’s essential to their development. I started stepping back with Pumpkin 1 out of necessity. When Pumpkin 2 was born when she was only 18 months, I couldn’t respond to her as quickly. I couldn’t hold her hand to help her up the stairs 50 times a day so I just had to let her do things on her own. And I was surprised. She was capable. After reading more about trusting our children on Play at Home Mom blog I started to force myself to step back at the park (just a little bit back 🙂 in catching distance) and see what she could do. She surprised me again. She could climb, slide, crawl, all by herself. And I saw that, in her case, she was cautious when she wasn’t sure of herself and didn’t do things if she felt she couldn’t (I know not every child is like that). I started showing her how to climb things at the park, rather than just plopping her down at the top.
Now that I’ve started this journey into Montessori I’m looking for more ways to allow her to be independent and to teach her how to do things. This past week I was emptying the dish washer and Pumpkin 1 wanted to help. I thought for a minute and then put her kitchen stool over by the utensil drawer, opened it and put the dishwasher utensil tray of clean utensils down on the counter. I showed her how to put a few in, and then went back to my work. And she did it! She put them all away, in the right spot, with just a couple mistakes. My 2 year old actually helped me with housework. Yay! This age is a key time. At this age helping out and cleaning is fun. It’s more work right now to teach them, but before you know it, your child will be a help to you. I hope that by instilling responsibility and organization in her right now, it will stay with her for life (I can hope, right?).
I am finding, the more independent she is, the less meltdowns she has. Often a tantrum is from frustration, from not being able to control her surroundings. I also try to not say “no” all the time. Is it really a big deal if she wants to bring 5 stuffed animals on a walk? Is it a big deal if she wants to wear a dress up dress to the store? I have to stop myself, consider why I’m saying no – is it a safety issue? a mess issue? a time issue? Then, if I realize my motivation in saying no, I can better judge if I should let it go and let her do whatever it is, or if I can adapt it somehow so that it is less messy, or is safe. And of course, sometimes I just have to say “no”.
What are some ways you have taught your child to be independent?