Independence “Never help a child with a task at which he feels he can succeed. ” – Maria Montessori. “No, let me do it myself! ” Does this sound familiar? Well, it is the rallying cry of preschoolers everywhere. Young children, all around the world want the same thing. They want us to help them, to help themselves! Maria Montessori believed that every child is born with a potential for independence. Unfortunately, the child’s yearning for independence often clashes with the way we adults want things done.
We want it done well but more importantly we want it done quickly! We seem to forget what if feels like to be a child. A child’s drive for independence begins around the age of two and usually begins with self-reliance skills. Your little child wants to do almost everything for himself, or at least it seems like that some days! He is on the lookout for new challenges – Like getting on and off a rocking chair or helping to make chocolate cake.
These are good things to encourage, even if it means constantly monitoring them getting on and off the rocking chair and a few elusive egg shells in the cake mix. It is always a goal of Montessori education in the classrooms to make the child independent and be able to do things for himself. This is achieved by giving children opportunities – Opportunities to move, to dress themselves, to choose what they want to do and to help the adults with tasks.
When the children are able to do things for themselves there is an increase in their self belief, self confidence and self esteem that they may carry on throughout their life. Every unnecessary help is a hindrance to development and it tends to suffocate the child’s useful, spontaneous activity. Maria Montessori understood that in order to be free, one needs to be independent. She also said that learning to be independent came before freedom. Teachers and parents sometimes misunderstand this concept, and expect a child to become independent by granting him freedom of choice without limits.
Instead, fostering independence first will lead the child toward a sense of freedom and self-esteem. In the Montessori prepared environment, independence is an ongoing, organic process and the Practical Life curriculum is integral to this – Material and activities that encourage the child to “do for himself”. As a child learns to pour water, lace shoes, put on a coat, clean his/her work space, prepare a snack, and consider others in his Montessori classroom or home community, independence takes root and grows.