By Julia Gorham
“Help me do it by myself”
Dr Maria Montessori
The Montessori method of teaching equips children with a strong sense of independence and confidence, by allowing them to do things on their own. Children are curious by nature and enjoy trying what they can achieve.
The importance of confidence
Confident children grow into resilient adults. People who possess confidence don’t dwell on failures. Instead, they acknowledge difficult situations, learn from any mistakes, problem solve with confidence, and move forward with positivity. Confident people are typically healthier and happier, experience lower levels of depression, and enjoy greater success at school and work.
Building your child’s resilience
Children need both outside support and inner strength to build confidence. Outside support, such as caring relationships and positive role models, play an important role in teaching children that they are safe, loved and accepted. Skills of inner strength, such as self-regulation, critical thinking, confidence, positivity and responsibility teach children that they are capable of coping with difficult situations.
How Montessori encourages a child’s sense of confidence
Montessori cultivates a culture of confidence and independence fostering the idea that children are capable learners, who can do, and think for themselves. In the Montessori classroom, this can be seen through a focus on independence and self-correction. If a child spills a drink, they are encouraged to clean it up. If they cannot complete an activity, they are encouraged to try again when they are developmentally ready. By allowing children to fix problems themselves, instead of removing them, Montessori empowers children with the confidence they need to bounce back from accidents or disappointments.
Developing a sense of independence
Encourage your child to try new things that they indicate an interest in, such as climbing at the park, or carrying their own glass of water. Don’t be afraid to let them try new things, even if you think they may be too hard for them. Children learn best through hands-on experience and practice. To encourage independence:
- Embrace the Montessori concept of “Help me to do it myself.” When your child is struggling with a task, such as tying their shoes, resist the urge to take over. Accept that your child won’t get things right the first time, or the second, and that learning to become independent is a process that builds resilience.
- Make time. Learning to become independent takes time and patience. If it takes your child 20 minutes to get dressed themselves, start your morning routine 20 minutes earlier. It is important to allow extra time in your daily routines to accommodate for your child’s emerging skills of independence.
- Identify opportunities for independence. Create a list of things that your child can do for themselves. Examples may include: brushing their teeth, choosing their outfit, putting on their shoes, tidying up their toys, or putting their plate in the sink. Ask your child which duties they feel that can take on. Embracing your child’s independence is likely to increase their willingness to try new things.
Approach tantrums and emotional outbursts as learning opportunities to help your child to identify and understand their emotions. Use three steps to help manage difficult behaviour:
- Catch any negative thoughts and feelings of embarrassment: Your child’s behaviour is not a reflection of your parenting. Instead, it is a demonstration of their developing emotional and behavioural regulation skills.
- Approach the situation with patience and empathy: Take three deep breaths, and think about the current situation from your child’s perspective. What is the likely cause of their behaviour, and how are they feeling? Are they hungry, over-tired? Rethinking and problem solving their feelings will encourage them. Use the current situation as a learning opportunity to address the cause behind their behaviour.
- Talking through your child’s emotions with them will not only validate their feelings and help them to express themselves, but will also help them manage this wide range of emotions, and teach them to ask for help when necessary.
Helping children gain confidence is best done through caring relationships, positive affirmations, and ongoing support:
- Model Resilience. One of the first ways that children learn about resilience is from their parents. When parents cope well with stress in their everyday life, they are showing their children how to do the same. To model resilience: approach difficult situations with patience and a positive can-do attitude.
- Encourage your child to keep trying when a task is hard or frustrating. Use positive language about difficult tasks, and encourage your child to see challenges as opportunities to develop new skills.
- Show them that mistakes are ok. Everyone makes mistakes, what’s important, is that we learn from them for next time. Encourage your child to see mistakes as opportunities to problem solve in a different way.
- Actively point out your child’s strengths. Discuss and encourage your child to build on their strengths, as well as their limitations. These positive affirmations will become the “voice” in your child’s head. Hearing positivity helps children to develop a positive inner voice.