Parents wish for their children to develop into independent individuals. In their early years, it is common for children to rely on their parents to eat, bathe and move around. It is only as they grow older that independence can be nurtured with ample support, love, trust and guidance. However, this can be challenging for both parents and their children — teaching independence is no easy task, but learning to be independent can be a tough skill to master as well.
The Montessori Approach has been used for more than 100 years. Practised by many preschools and parents from all across the world, this method has proven itself to be a versatile curriculum, even successful in nurturing children with special needs and learning difficulties. One of Montessori’s approaches is to nurture children to be independent. Until today, independence is still a crucial factor in Montessori education and has remained as one of the most important elements for teachers to instil in children.
Benefits Of Nurturing Independence
According to the Australian Childhood Foundation, children from the age of two begin to aspire for more independence. It is from this age that parents should start to motivate their children to make independent choices in their life.
Independent children tend to obtain first-hand knowledge and gain experience faster. The Montessori Approach makes sure that children have ample time and space to discover the world around them on their own. This gives them the chance to expand their absorbent mind and take in their surroundings individually. As they explore on their own, children will effectively pick up new skills as they are given room to experience trial and error. Children learning to be independent may learn that a bottle cap needs to be twisted after trying various unsuccessful methods to open it. If parents open the bottles for them all the time, it takes a longer time for them to understand how the simple mechanics work.
Nurturing independence in children also boosts their self-esteem and confidence. Children cannot rely on their parents or teachers to seek joy all the time, which is why Montessori-trained teachers mainly act as guides who only interfere when necessary. This enhances their confidence and self-esteem, as they are aware that they are capable of doing certain things without the supervision of their parents. As they take healthy risks and learn from them, children also gain problem-solving skills that will contribute to better decision-making. Lynn Ponton, professor of psychiatry at the University of California says: “It’s a tool to define, develop and consolidate their identity. Healthy risk-taking is a big part of growth”.
Keeping Things Tidy
Some of the first steps towards encouraging independence are for children to tidy up after certain routines. The children’s house practises the Montessori Method while training children to be independent by allowing them to put away and wash dishes, keep their toys, wash their hands, and using the washroom on their own. Montessori schools are also equipped with child-sized equipment, so children can fully utilise the facilities without much help. The first few trials will require teachers’ guidance and supervision. However, as their independence becomes a habit, children will learn about the importance of doing certain things on their own and gradually improve as time goes by.
Freedom To Choose
In Montessori classrooms, children are given freedom, from being allowed to choose their own materials, activities to work on, and taking a break by themselves. Montessori teachers place materials and items that make up of children’s choices within their reach. This empowers them to practise independence in the classroom and feel accomplished when they can handle certain things on their own.
Parents can also train their children to make independent choices and allow them to experience the impact of their decisions. Let children make safe and simple choices such as asking if they want to bring their sports attire to school. If they choose not to, they will not be able to participate in the outdoor activities. Thus, the child will learn from this experience and consciously make better choices next time.
Independence In Socialising
Teachers in a Montessori preschool observe children’s interaction with one another. It is common for children to experience different phases as they attend preschool with their friends. On some days, a child may want to work alone, and on other days, they may seek a partner to work and play with.
Teachers and parents should refrain from controlling who a child interacts with, but to allow them to socialise with peers of their choice. This is because they are naturally aware of their needs, and are working towards achieving it at their own pace. Giving them freedom to socialise also shows respect to their choices.
Shape Confident Leaders Of Tomorrow
An article promoting independence by the Australian Childhood Foundation says: “It can be a common pitfall for busy parents to do things for children that children are capable of doing themselves”. Helping children foster independence is indeed a challenging task for parents and teachers. However, with the right method and materials to aid children to be self-reliant, they will be ready to take on challenges of adulthood in the future.
Independent children will also grow into individuals capable of looking after themselves physically and emotionally. Teachers and parents who guide children to be independent have given them the freedom to experience life and its lessons that follow, which shape them to be confident and responsible leaders of tomorrow. They will also be able to enhance their problem-solving skills and make better decisions in lessons learned from previous experiences.