Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Help Me To Do It Myself

One of the most well known phrases in the Montessori world is "Help me do it myself".  I think that it is so well known because it really summarizes the Montessori philosophy in its very essence.  While Montessori school are known for their academics, many people quickly discover the push for independence.  Children in Montessori classrooms are given the space to be independent and the tools that allow them to do so successfully   With child sized materials and furniture, the Prepared Environment   in the classroom encourages independence.  The same is true for Montessori homes.

In our home we have adapted the environment to allow our children to be independent in many ways.  We have always encouraged them to try to do it themselves, and if they need help to ask for it.  As soon as our son started talking he could say "help please!"  It sounded a bit like "hupppeee", but we understood what he meant   It should have come to no surprise when about a month ago he started saying, "help please, do it!"  By which he meant "Help me to do it by myself."  He is 100% in the do it himself stage, but he is not always able to do things completely on his own.  He figured out that he can sk for help while still making it clear to us that he would like to participate as much as possible.  This is a very important transition that we all must make as a family.  Although it can be very tiring some times when your toddler wants to do things himself.  It can almost seem absurd sometimes.  Like when you have to unbuckle his car seat, so that he can buckle it himself.  Or when you have to take the dirty shirt out of the laundry basket so he can put it in.  However annoying this may seem, and no matter how much longer these actions take, it is essential that children are allowed to "do it" on their own or tot he best of their ability during this time that they have the interest to do so.

Maria Montessori said, "Never help a child with a task at which he feels he can succeed."  The key to this sentence is the word FEELS.  Note - it is not about what you feel the child can do, or what you feel is the easiest or quickest way to do it, but what he feels he can do.  You have to let him have the opportunity to try, and then ask for your help if he needs it.  When you do help, after being asked, you only help as much as is needed.  An example is when your toddler is getting dressed.  My almost two year old can get his shirt over his head, but can quite get his arms through the holes, once he does he can pull down the front and back to straighten it.

Not only do children learn to do things for themselves through independence, but they also learn that they are capable.  If toddlers aren't given the opportunity to try, do and sometimes fail at their own tasks they risk loosing the desire to do things for themselves. Parents and teachers who help and do things for their children all the time often claim to do so out of love.  These children quickly pick up on this message, and soon beleive "If you love me you will serve me!"

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Avoid Nagging

My parenting resolution for February was to Avoid Nagging.  I have talked about this topic before when I was working on the Positive Discipline tool One Word.  I still use this tool when I remember or think it is appropriate and still find it to be an effective way to communicate needs, reminders, and rules when the child already knows what is expected and is capable of doing it.

In addition to using just one word to state my requests, I tried just not saying or even doing anything at all as one way to avoid nagging.  I know that doesn't sound like very good parenting advice, but it was actually pretty effective in certain situations.  Dinner time is the perfect example.  My daughter does her homework at the dining room table while I cook dinner each night.  When she is finished with her homework, she often plays with her little brother while I finish up dinner.  When dinner is almost ready I start nagging my daughter to put her homework away, clear the table, set the table etc.  This is not a pleasant experience for anyone in the house.  I annoy myself!  One day I decided not to say anything.  I just finished up dinner, got out the plates and silver wear for setting the table and set them on the edge of the table and called everyone to come and eat.  As soon as my daughter got to the table she said, "Oops, I forgot to put my homework away."  She quickly cleaned it up while i got drinks for everyone.  When she got back she set the table quickly and we all sat down and ate.  I was thinking I would give this strategy a try and if it didn't work I would put the issue on the Family Meeting agenda.  Turns out the issue was all mine.  I wanted the homework cleaned up as soon as she was finished working on it.  She wanted a break after school and homework.  I had already expressed the need for the table to be cleared and set for dinner many times, as well as taken the time for training her how to do the job.  When we got ready to eat and there was a mess at the table she didn't think twice about what needed to be done.  She also didn't need me insulting her intelligence or humiliating her in front of everyone else by nagging her about it.

I did catch my self nagging in a few other situations, and just being mindful of it made it easy to stop myself and seek a better solution.  All in all I would say this resolution was a success and another one that I hope to continue as we move on into the next month.  For March my parenting resolution will be Forgive and Forget!