Dr. Maria Montessori said that every unnecessary help is a stumbling block to developing independence.
It’s Unnecessary in the Morning
Oh, dear, your son is going to be late for school. He overslept this morning and you’ve run out of his favorite breakfast cereal; he almost missed the bus and you forgot to give him his lunch. Gosh, it seems that once a week you’re toting the forgotten lunch or homework or boots over to school for him. Could be that he really forgets, but just, perhaps .. .if you stopped letting it be your responsibility to remember those things, he might begin to remember them himself. Let him go without lunch one day? Get his feet soaked without his boots? Get him a demerit for not having his homework? Perhaps … it might be just what he needs to become more responsible.
It’s Unnecessary at Ballet Practice
We take our daughter to ballet after we pack her dance clothes; we take her coat off, we dress her in her leotard and tights, put her dance shoes on, and put her coat back on after class. We take our son to hockey, pack his gym bag, put on his pads, pants, suspenders, lace and tie his skates. Wouldn’t it make more sense to expect our children to do these things for themselves? You’re sure they can’t do those things yet. It takes too long – they’d miss the class. They cry for you to help them. All the other Moms are helping. Perhaps they’re too young for dance or hockey or just perhaps … we’re not expecting enough of our children.
It’s Unnecessary at the Grocery Store
You’re in the grocery store, trying to figure out once again how to keep your 5-year old from tearing the place apart. Putting him in the cart hasn’t worked in the past; opening up the box of cookies or giving him something to drink usually just ends up in a mess. You ask yourself again “Why am I doing this? It never works”. And yet… wasn’t it just recently that you saw a Mom and her daughter each with her own grocery list, the daughter walking along proudly looking for the items she’s responsible for and mom not being harassed or looking frazzled as she chose the best melon to bring home? The only difference between you and this Mom is that she believes her daughter is capable of being productive. Perhaps … your son or daughter is, too.
It’s Unnecessary at Dinner Time
You’re just home from work, the kids are cranky and hungry. You’re trying to prepare dinner, set the table, keep them out of the kitchen. Isn’t there something they could do to help? It’s easier to do it by yourself? Perhaps … but chances are that enlisting their help will make dinner preparations smoother, get dinner on the table quicker, and be the start of a better relationship between you and your child. Why can’t a 3-year old put a spoon at each place for soup, fold napkins and place them around the table? Why can’t a 3-yr. old shake the salad dressing? Why couldn’t she set the whole table? Impossible? You’re sure she’ll break the dishes, cut herself on the knives, get the place settings all wrong. Perhaps … but you might be surprised at how much skill and interest she has.
The reality is that if they can turn on the TV, operate your iPad, and remember every promise you ever made, then they’re ready to learn to tie their shoes, remember their lunch, help with the dishes, pack their own hockey bag, make their bed, and perhaps … much, much more.