Raising children is one of the most challenging and rewarding roles you will ever undertake. Some days are more challenging than others; however, the rewards are so very worthwhile. After all, what is more fulfilling than seeing your little ones grow into happy and confident children who are empowered with resilience and independence?
With the rapid pace of modern life, it is easy to lose sight of how important it is to teach our children to do things for themselves. On the days when we’re running late for day care drop off, it is easier to pack our children’s bags, dress them, and tie their shoes. The rush of the everyday gives way to dependency parenting, which is the enemy of budding independence.
To teach our sons and daughter to be confident, independent learners, it is important to embrace the Montessori Philosophy of: “Help me to do it myself.” In the Montessori classroom, this is reflected through the prepared environment, which embraces the concept of freedom of choice within limits.
In a Montessori classroom, students have the freedom to move around the room, move from one activity to the next, and choose their own work. Sounds like a recipe for disaster, right?
In a typical play based early learning setting, this freedom would lead to children running amuck, disregard for the teacher’s instructions, and damage to the learning materials. This isn’t the case with Montessori.
The magic of the Montessori prepared environment lies in the unwritten rules, the ‘limits,’ that govern this learning space. Children are provided freedom; however, they must work in a constructive manner, respect their teachers and their peers, and participate in the care of their environment.
Over time, this establishes a wonderful sense of classroom community, that fosters independence, creativity, open communication, problem solving skills, and above all, a place where children love to learn.
To encourage independence at home, it is wise to start with introducing limited choices, and allowing your child to build their independence one step at a time.
An example of introducing limited choices would be to ask your child: “Would you like to clean up your toys before or after dinner?” or “Would you like to wear the blue or yellow jumper today?”
By introducing limiting choices, you are allowing your child to practice independent decision making, without overwhelming them. After all, decision making is hard work!
Similarly, you can encourage your child to begin practicing self-care skills. This may include brushing their teeth, while you initially oversee their efforts, or packing their bag as they get older.
The best way to determine how you can implement independence building activities is to observe your child and their interests. Have you noticed them watching you intently while you complete a particular household or self-care activity? This may be a sign that they are ready to take on a new responsibility.
Independence doesn’t happen overnight, but it is an invaluable investment in your child’s future. Next time you’re in a rush, remember that allowing your child that extra five minutes, might make an incredible different to their future.