Montessori felt adults should act as a guide, giving the child a chance to be self-reliant, taking a child through activities with patience and understanding, to build an essential repertoire of life skills that range from dressing and caring for themselves to basic science.
When given permission and aided through the process of learning to“help me do it myself”, not only will the child better develop his coordination and grow in confidence and self-esteem, the adult will gain greater insight into the child’s development. Best of all, when guiding a child to think for themselves in the earliest of formative years, a solid foundation will be laid for all future learning. A child prepared in this way will not be content with superficial learning but will passionately dive more deeply into the study. A well developed mind cannot simply be “turned off” when fed empty.
A cardinal rule in the home, as also seen in Montessori Tides School, should be: Never do for a child what he is capable of doing for himself. Although, it is important to realize this is not a black and white rule. The child’s development is a work in progress. If we try to force the issue “you can do it”, and refuse assisting when requested, we will set the stage for struggle and frustration. But neither is it good for us to hold a child back when they are ready to move forward.
Kathy Graham gave powerful insight on this subject at the Montessori Framework. The question asked, “What do you do when you know a child is capable of doing something for themselves, but he shows no interest in doing it?” Her response was priceless, “You CHEER!”
A child must gradually be taught independence and we must resist the temptation to always “help” because we see the child’s potential. It is just as degrading to the child as to an adult to have someone constantly doing everything for them. If you give the matter some thought, there are numerous tasks around the house the child is capable of doing, and with a simple cheer, “you can do it”, the child will begin to see his own potential too.
Wouldn’t it be nice if we all had a personal cheerleader to help us through uncertainty? Becoming the child’s biggest fan gives an all around boost of confidence needed to keep striving toward the goal of independence. When we help less and cheer more, gradually we will see a child trying new things. Most importantly, when the joyful words, “Help me do it myself” are not spoken, draw on the wisdom that already inhabits the heart and assist only when needed. In the words of Maria Montessori, ” Any unnecessary help is a hindrance to the child’s development.” But, “Free the child’s potential, and you will transform him into the world, so he will transform ours.”
Tasks young children might need “cheering” to accomplish:
- Dressing themselves
- Picking up toys
- Sorting and putting clothes away
- Making the bed