Letting Go is a very simple tool, but seems to be very difficult for many parents. The card says "Letting go does not mean abandoning your child. It means allowing your child to learn responsibility and to feel capable." It is so funny how one mother's version of letting go seems like allowing her child to learn and grow while another mother would see it as neglect or lazy parenting.
I feel like so many parents these days are hung up on being "perfect" parents, and to them that means doing everything for their child. What they don't realize, is by doing for their child all the time they are not only not allowing their child to learn how to do it himself, but they are also constantly sending him the message that he is not capable. Once again I will share my favorite quote of Montessori, "Any unnecessary help is a hindrance to development."
I know I harp on this point a lot, but it is probably the single most common parenting mistake that I see being made in a variety of settings. With helicopter parenting becoming more and more prevalent, we need to take a look at what we really want for our children. If we just want them to get perfect grades and participate in many extra curricular activities and stay out of trouble, then helicopter parenting might be the answer. I personally want more. I want my children to not only get good grades, but love learning. I want them to participate in activities that will open their eyes to our culture, enhance their physical health or enrinch their lives in a way that school and home don't. I want them stay out of trouble, but not because they are scared of the consequences that I will enforce, but because they know right from wrong and have a strong enough sense of their place in this world to make good choices.
Letting go is a tool that must start from birth. Montessori talks about the various transitions that our children go through as they develop. Immediately after birth they learn to drink milk, breath air, and cry. Before we know it they are learning to communicate with smiles, eye contact, and different cries. Then they sit, and eat solids. Not long after they crawl, then walk and soon they run. We cannot hold them back or they may physically or emotionally suffer. Children are constantly changing and growing and we must follow their lead and allow them to develop along their natural path. Even if what they do scares us a bit, we must allow them to explore and grow independently. That means not following them around at the park, not constantly telling them what to do or not to do, and not scooping them up and coddling them every time the get a little scrape or bump. As they get older, their independence will take the shape of new friendships that will begin to become ever more important and influential in their lives. Another moment we must let go a little and trust them.
As they grow, we take time for training and we take small steps toward letting go. Then we have to put our trust in our children and let them be who and what they will be. Knowing that your child has the knowledge and ability to be successful makes it easier on you to let go. In Montessori we say knowledge precedes choice. Children cannot be given freedom of choice without knowledge to guide them. So take time for training and then have faith in them.
Don't think that you are a bad parent if you do not rescue your child in every challenge that they face. Children need to deal with problems and difficulties and even failure, because that is part of life. As I have heard Jane Nelson put it many time, children need to strengthen their "disappointment muscles", so when they face more serious problems later on in life they are capable of dealing with them. Allow them to make mistakes and learn from them.
The final, and possibly most important tip that comes with this tool is: "Get a life so your identity does not depend on managing your child's life." You are not just "Mommy"! Find things that interest you and inspire you outside of your children. Fullfilling yourself will make you a better parent. It also allows you to model the importance of taking care of yourself and nurturing your hobbies. A great lesson for your children. Here is an article I found about detaching from loved ones!
Letting go is much harder for some parents than it is for other. It doesn't happen over night, but if you take the time to teach, put faith in your children and be kind and firm, you will be able to slowly let go and let live!
Next week we will look at Win/Win Solutions!