The child’s reasoning, and acts of, working is different from ours. Parents will usually unconsciously choose to do things the most efficient and quickest way, and rush through or avoid tasks as we try to balance our busy lives with children. Children, on the other hand, are in no rush, while working to master the activity and through practice perfect their abilities. The most effective gift a parent can give the child is time, and to follow their child. What a pleasure it can be for parents to slow down their own lives to match the child’s speed, in order to share our way of life.
Gehrig was a little past 18 months when he began to express his intense need for movement and became unwilling to sit in the grocery cart at the grocery store. Like many toddlers, Gehrig would demand to get down from the cart, while his mother quickly ran through the grocery store yet again, forgetting over half of what she needed, because her focus was no longer on shopping, but on how to exit the store the quickest and without a scene. She realized that Gehrig developmentally needed to be walking; after all he was being confined in the cart for over forty five minutes, not to mention the number of times Gehrig’s need for sensorial exploration had been stifled (“Don’t touch”). Out of desperation she placed him on the floor in hopes to meet his need, however; he ran about uncontrolled and without direction. Nevertheless, grocery shopping was turning into a task his mother tried to avoid at all cost.
Most people call the search for limits “testing,” or “naughty,” however; Montessori teachers feel there is a negative connotation to these words. “When the child is trying to learn the rules and procedures of the society in which she lives this is a very positive undertaking. It is actually important research.” As the child is carrying out research, it is helpful to realize that the child is being a normal, intelligent child who is not behaving poorly, but trying to discover how to behave.
The next time Gehrig’s mother went grocery shopping, after observing his profound balance and controlled movements, she noticed his intense concentration as he pushed his child size buggy around the house, so expectantly, she brought his child size buggy along. In this way, Gehrig found purpose as he pushed his cart purposefully next to mom, only reaching out for those items she choose for him to reach for. When it was time to check out, he carefully placed his items from his buggy to the checkout table. When leaving, he walked ever so concentrated through the parking lot reaching the car in a state of control and peacefulness.
“There can be no intelligent choice or responsibility at any age without independence in thought and action.” Once Gehrig’s need was met, deviance stopped!
Montessori Tides preschool thinks strongly of the valuable work in practical life that gives children in school and home greater ability to concentrate, make intelligent decisions, and master the beginnings of other areas of education such as math, language, science and the arts. But in all wisdom, the Montessori teacher knows practical life work are the activities that bring the child’s attention to his own progress and development, increasing the tools for self-directedness, and the inner satisfaction of the child.
When parents bring purpose to the work, by sharing the task with the child, an experience that was once worth avoiding can become pleasurable and productive for both. Following a successful, complete cycle of family work, the child becomes calm and satisfied and, due to this inner peace, life for the family becomes more productive and fulfilling. This is what Montessori calls a “Normalized Child.”