When Montessori Isn't Independent
The other day, Henry asked me for an orange. I took one from our fruit bowl, cut it in half and gave it to him. Then, Nora started fussing to eat. So, I nursed her.
As I nursed, Henry proceeded to go to his kitchen area, and get his juicer and cup. He juiced the orange slices and poured himself a glass of juice. After drinking the juice, he threw away the orange slices, put the cup and juicer in the dishwasher, and was on his way.
I wasn't involved in any of it. None.
It was the perfect example of independence, combining practical life skills, responsibility, and caring for his environment.
But this isn't always our normal. We struggle a lot with independence.
Henry likes when we do things for him. He likes when I put on his shoes. When I pour his cup. When I put on his jacket or zip it up -- when I get something for him, when I read, count, the list goes on. Despite the fact that he can do many of these things by himself his default is still to ask me.
To be perfectly honest, it's often very frustrating. I can find myself getting upset which leads to both of us getting ingrained in our positions -- me on the "you can do it side" and Henry on the "do it for me" side.
So, what do we do, when Montessori isn't independent?
The answer to this depends on the situation. If we are in a hurry, if I'm frustrated or Henry is frustrated -- I help. I don't do it for him, but help as much as he feels he needs to at least attempt to do it on his own.
If we have time, I step away. Not in an obvious "I'm not doing this for you!" way, but in a subtle way.
Some techniques I use include:
Sometimes Henry just needs a tiny reminder that he knows how to do the task. Sometimes, it's as simple as saying "I believe I saw you zip your coat this morning! Could you try zipping it again?"
A verbal cue sometimes gives him just the right encouragement to attempt the task.
"Can you show Nora, how to..." Is by far the easiest way to get Henry engaged in an activity. He loves to guide Nora and show off his skills. And Nora is a willing participant. This simple trick helps remind him of how much he knows and practice at the same time.
This isn't always a technique as much as it is a necessity. I'm not always available to Henry, there are times when I am nursing or changing a diaper, or getting dressed myself. Whatever the case is, I simply ask Henry to try while I finish my task.
By not rushing to him, I give the space to complete a task for a few minutes. He will often attempt and succeed just because he doesn't want to wait. Even when I'm not super busy, then, I might pull out a "be right there," or "in a minute" just to give him time to practice without getting frustrated over a flat-out no.
I've found that when Henry is struggling with independence it's often a matter of needing some one-on-one attention. By giving hugs and cuddles, reading a book or playing together, I give Henry the attention he is really craving. When this need is satisfied, he is much more willing to complete tasks on his own.
Another thing to really examine is the environment when you are having independence issues. While I might think that something is accessible for Henry, it's not. Get on their level and really make sure you've given your child, every opportunity to succeed. I've noticed that if one part of a task isn't accessible, it can increase his frustration to the point that he can't complete any of it.
I try my best to avoid yelling or getting frustrated, but I struggle in these areas. I'm constantly pushing myself to work on these issues. But, I do avoid scolding him for wanting help, shaming him, or otherwise assigning a punishment. I do my best to remember he won't always be little, and to enjoy these days as much as I can.
How do you encourage independence in your home? Does your child struggle with being independence?