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Inviting Participation in a Montessori Home

Since Theodore's birth, a little over a month ago, Augustus has been on a practical life strike. He just isn't interested or is outright refusing. He doesn't want to help wash windows, help with laundry, cook/bake, or help with other cleaning tasks. Things he enjoyed before the baby was born. Instead of an enthusiastic "yes!" all I hear is "no" or "mama, you do it!" 

Now, I love practical life. It's hard for me to see days and weeks go by without a ton a participation in daily tasks. I could force it, or ask again and again. It would fill our days with power struggles and strife. But at the end of the day, it's not my choice what Gus chooses to participate in or not. It's ultimately Gus' choice. 

Strategies for dealing with a toddler that refuses to participate in daily tasks

Sometimes we can feel like our role as the adult is to require or force participation. We know these tiny children could do so much. We know they are capable. And, we want to cultivate independence within them. Whether it is getting dressed on their own, participating in practical life, walking on their own, working with certain materials, or any number or tasks - the choice is the child's. 

Inviting Participation 

So, if our role isn't to force participation, what is our role? It's to invite. All day, provide the opportunity and see where the child leads you. 

"Gus, I'm making lunch. Would you like to help me?" "No." 
"I'm going to fold the laundry now, you can join me or keep working in here." "I play here." 
"I see that the window is dirty, should we clean it together?" "You do it!" 

Invite, invite and invite. Here are some tips to keep in mind as you do it: 
  • Invite without judgment, strings attached, consequences or punishments. It's a genuine invitation. 
  • Joyfully accept the answer without pressure. No need to add incentives or try to get the answer you're hoping for. 
  • Keep the invitation open. Remember that toddlers will often snap "no" at any question but given a minute to consider will often change their mind. Don't rescind an offer to participate just because they initially refuse. 
  • Invite again next time. And the time after that. 
Keep in mind that invitations need to be genuine; only offer an invitation if your child really has a choice. An invitation is not appropriate for things that your child has to do (like leave the house for school, or buckle their car seat.) In these moments, don't phrase the action as a choice, but give choices about the process. "It's time to get into your seat, would you like to climb in or have me put you in?" 

Strategies for dealing with a toddler that refuses to participate in daily tasks

So, today when Gus says "no" then I will not take it personally. I will keep inviting him to participate, and open up opportunities for him to join. I trust that his work is important and that he will do what he most needs in this moment to fulfill his developmental needs. That may or may not line up with my plan. And, then I'll invite him again next time. 

Has your toddler ever been on a practical life strike? How do you invite participation? 

Strategies for dealing with a toddler that refuses to participate in daily tasks



Chellehumble said…
My daughter went on a work strike in general after I had my son. She was 2.5 and refused to use anything from our shelves unless I was using it along side her. I know this was because my attention was taken often by baby. I tried to be gentle. Eventually what helped other than some new work was a suggestion from my cousin who is an elementary teacher at our local Montessori school. She suggested I use the work myself. Independently. Take it off the shelf use it and put it back. A whole work cycle. If she tries to join, to let her know this is my work but that she could use it once I was finished. This helped a little. She at least would watch how I worked independently and did likewise. She still much preferred me to play alongside. Still does. Difference being, she now goes to school (Montessori pre primary) for half a day three days a week and it provides us each time apart. It helps her work independently here at home and enjoy practical life here. I think it boosts her confidence to have time she uses those skills without me.
Anonymous said…
My husband is out of town for three weeks and my 3yo is missing dad and is on a practical life strike, too. This was helpful to read this morning--thank you!

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