“My child is only 3 (or 4, 5, 6 . . .)!”
“No, your child is already 3 (or 4, 5, 6 . . .)!”
“What an odd name for the blog,” one might think. Yes, but let me explain.
Often, there is a discrepancy between how the parents see their child and how we, the Children’s House Guides, view him. Sorry, not just him, but rather a capable, independent child. We frequently hear: My child can’t do this, my child is only . . . (you fill in the blank). And then we tell the parents about what it is their child does at school and behold: surprise, disbelief, awe and PRIDE!!
A young child is able to do a multitude of tasks independently when given the tools and the environment to do so. A three-year-old should be able to get dressed by himself, wash his face and hands, brush his teeth, get a snack and a drink, and much more. In Children’s House, the children prepare their food, set tables, bake, dust, sweep, wash mirrors and windows, polish silver, do laundry, and steadily grow in their self-confidence and independence. And if they can do it at school, then they can do it at home.
Of course, it takes planning ahead and setting up appropriate accommodations for your child.
For example, set up a small pitcher with water and glasses on a low shelf in the kitchen. Fruit, crackers and such could be placed in a low cabinet, so that the child can prepare his own snack. A stepstool in the kitchen will allow him to help you with cooking, and a stepstool in the bathroom can assist your child in washing up and brushing his teeth independently.
Clothes should be easy to put on and take off. Shoes with velcro closures are helpful for self-dressing. A five year old should be learning how to tie his shoelaces. To make it easier for a child to choose what to wear, group his clothes into sets. Of course, a clothes hamper helps establish a habit of putting dirty clothes away and not on the floor.
Our job as parents and teachers is to guide our children to independence. Step by step, day by day, we help our children develop the skills of everyday life and take on more responsibility until they can stand firmly on their own feet. Unfortunately, it is so much easier and faster to do it ourselves or hire someone, than to teach our children how to do it for themselves. But if we don’t teach skills, how can we expect our children to act with responsibility when needed or when opportunity presents itself?
Maria Montessori said: “Never help a child with a task at which he feels he can succeed.” So next time your child is “taking forever” trying to zipper his coat, close your eyes, take a deep breath in and breathe out, in and out . . . and watch your child develop confidence to persevere through your patient example.