My son recently turned 2 years old, and I am taking this opportunity to thank Maria Montessori because of whom I am feeling proud to raise my children in a Montessori environment. Giving birth is a natural thing but raising children depends on how you were raised yourself, how you think right now and what kind of environment you will prepare for your child. I will share my experience in raising my children. These experiences will explain how following the Montessori philosophy helped them in their development, what kind of situations I faced, and how my observations helped me to deal with the situations I came across.
First, I would like to share all the Montessori concepts/ideas which I learned and felt are important to raise a child peacefully. I will be sharing each idea in a separate post.
- The Child’s Needs
- The Environment
- Freedom and Independence
- Respect and Confidence
- Experience before language and the overuse of ‘no’
- Real work and no screens
- Being a true guide without an agenda
1. The Child’s Needs
When a child is born it brings us happiness in our life. Our responsibility towards our children is to give them the opportunity to develop in a healthy and peaceful environment. For that, we need to understand their needs. At every stage, they have different needs which if not met, makes them restless. I would like to share some examples of my child here.
In his first 6 months, his inner need/urge was to crawl and move. For every such movement milestone he reached, there was a struggle which he expressed by crying. I would observe him and try to understand whether he really needed my help? Whether he looked at me asking for help or just struggled and cried while trying? These observations helped me to understand what I needed to do. What he needed from me was the opportunity to struggle, fail and then succeed after his own attempts and gain confidence in himself.
“The greatest help you can give your children is the freedom to go about their own work in their own way, for in this matter your child knows better than you. ” – Maria Montessori, Maria Montessori Speaks to Parents
As an adult, we always think about when do ‘we’ start feeding outside food, when do we toilet train them etc. We think ‘we’ are the ones who must plan everything for them. My question here is, why do we need to plan everything for them? Why don’t we just let children become aware of their needs by themselves? Once they are aware, they are very likely to express their needs. And once they express, we will know how to prepare things for them to learn and succeed from their own experience.
How did my child give me an indication that he is ready for outside food? Once I was sitting on the sofa holding him in my arms and was eating a banana. He was 5+ months old at that time. Suddenly he grabbed one bite of my banana and ate it nicely. That was it! This told me that he was ready for outside food. I started searching recipes for the purees to start his outside food journey, but the only thing that worked were when the food was catered to his tastes and likes. He started enjoying the food cooked for other family members at home. He didn’t like being treated differently with food specially cooked for him. He wanted to taste everything cooked at home and from everyone’s plate. He was aware of his hunger, expressed it and preferred to eat by himself. The only thing I did was to sit beside him and let him be with the food. I ensured the area where he ate was clean so that if there was a spill, and he ended up taking it from there, it would be okay. The reason was simple. The goal for him was to focus on his self-feeding skills. If I interrupted him by not allowing him to pick up food from outside the plate, he would no longer be able to concentrate on eating.
“Adults therefore should not interfere to stop any childish activity however absurd, so long as it is not too dangerous to life and limb! The child must carry out his cycle of activity.” – Maria Montessori, Education for a New World
Here I want to stress that it should be the child’s need to eat food and not an adult’s need. I will make this point clearer. When our stomach is empty, it signals the brain to look for food. This is true of our children as well. They might feel less hungry at times or hungrier at other times and sometimes they do not have an appetite at all. If their choice is respected, they will always trust you and will be able to ask for food instead of running away from it.
As for toilet learning, what I did was that I kept track of the time when he usually would have the urge. I would then keep the things needed to help clean him as an infant. Once he started walking, I told him he could let me know if he had pooped and I would help to clean him. After a few months he started using sign language to gesture that he had pooped. He was not very happy while pooping though and I would generally notice a worried expression on his face. I just reassured him that I would help him clean up. One day, while playing in his bathtub, he suddenly had the urge. But instead of pooping in the bathtub, he quickly came out and called for me and did it on the bathroom floor. Even at that age, he knew he shouldn’t be pooping in the bathtub! Children are aware of hygiene and one day they will agree to sit on the potty, and we shouldn’t manipulate them to do so!
We usually believe that we are the contributing members of society and children are not yet. We assume that children do not need to feel needed or valued. But the fact is that they also want to be a contributing part of the family and they do not want to be treated as someone who only needs to be taken care of all the time. When they observe us doing our role to live in a society or at home, they want to do the same and seek opportunities for it. If we understand that, we can provide real opportunities for them to help around in the house.
That’s for part 1. The other parts will be coming soon!