Encouraging Independence in Your Little One
As a Montessori student, teacher, and now parent, one constant mantra I must ask myself is — does this encourage independence, or am I getting in the way unnecessarily? It can be so easy to do for the child. Because we’re in a hurry, because they make a mess when they do it themselves, etc. But whenever and however we can, it’s beneficial to the child to let them do what they can do by themselves (no matter how slow-as-molasses they may be in doing it). Eventually, that won’t be an issue anymore so join me in pledging to try to be more patient!
Maria Montessori (see first blog post here), had much to say about the child’s inner need to develop independence and how our schools should be arranged to allow for this. Here’s a tiny taste of her thoughts on the topic:
“Under the urge of nature and according to the laws of development, though not understood by the adult, the child is obliged to be serious about two fundamental things … the first is the love of activity… The second fundamental thing is independence.” (What You Should Know About Your Child, Chapter 3, p. 11)
“The child’s conquests of independence are the basic steps in what is called his ‘natural development’.” (The Absorbent Mind, Chapter 8, p. 84)
“Except when he has regressive tendencies, the child’s nature is to aim directly and energetically at functional independence.” (The Absorbent Mind, Chapter 8, p. 83)
So how has my background as a Montessori teacher influenced any of my parenting choices? Here’s a list of some ways so far. It’s a really short list, because I’m a working mom now and I’m looking forward to sleep way too much. Don’t we love lists in blogs? It’s okay that it’s only 2 points long right?
I definitely didn’t finish reading the awesome baby signing book I was given as a baby shower book. I definitely didn’t master more than 6 signs (eat, drink, toilet, poop, more, finished). However, it has still been super beneficial! Being able to clearly communicate hunger, for example, gives my daughter so much more confidence and security that when she needs something, she will be heard and she will get what she needs. She doesn’t throw a tantrum around being hungry because she has no reason to. There’s no frustration to trigger a tantrum. She tells me in sign, I get her something. Easy peasy. I recommend signing, because what could help someone become more independent than the ability to communicate their own needs and thoughts?
Early Toilet Training
So I’ve seen some controversy about this, but I encourage you to get some books, read up and make up your own mind. I’ll just share my own two cents. Independence in one’s own bodily functions ranks up there with communicating needs. Kids definitely start getting harder to change around a year old. They squirm, run away butt naked, basically avoid diaper changes at all costs. How nice to have eased your kiddo into the natural habit of going to the toilet early on before it gets even harder for them to catch on. It’s even better for them biologically to eliminate sitting with feet firmly planted. My daughter isn’t totally toilet trained yet, and we may even be losing ground on this one because she’s now in a group setting instead of just with me. I understand this one is a bit tough to commit to if your child goes to daycare or school, because they will most likely require disposable diapers and won’t have the little plastic potty your tiny one can sit on independently. But I’m still hoping our efforts so far will still lead her to be totally diaper free a lot earlier than if she never had the experience on the toilet so often before 18 months old. If you do a little research, you’ll find that this isn’t new wave, weird, unrealistic hippy stuff. This was the norm back in the day. Before 1950, most children in the United States were toilet trained by 18 months. Now? It’s more like nearly 3 years old. I recommend this link for more information.