Independence is another important factor in Montessori philosophy.
“Before birth it was the mother who functioned for the child. After birth the child functions for himself as far as breathing and digestion are concerned. By acquiring this independence, he begins to work. At first the child finds nourishment from the mother but a day comes when the teeth come out, gastric juices are formed in the stomach and the child can eat anything. Thus it has acquired another degree of independence, still he does not know to express himself and his cries and other smattering have to be interpreted but soon a day comes when it is able to make others understand him. The same way a toddler gets a taste of independence as he takes his first steps and becomes independently mobile. Thus growth and development are one conquest after another for a thirst for independence to function himself and also to acquire individuality.” [Dr. Montessori lectures 1939]
As parents it is our responsibility to help the child to a further degree of independence by providing a suitable environment and gentle guidance. Children need to be shown how to learn new skills in simple ways. Young children like to be a part of our world. They think of work as play. They enjoy helping out at home if given a chance to do so. “Help the child to help himself” is a Montessori mantra. Encourage the child to learn to do things on his own, right from how to wash his hands, to choosing what to wear, to how to wear it. He can pour water into tumblers, shell peas and even mop the floor, to name a few activities. These activities help him in the road to independence. We have to show him the method of doing these activities in simple steps. After showing the child how to do it, please let him to do it, stop yourself from giving further instructions, corrections and blame. The greatest help any adult can give is to appreciate the attempts made by the child. He will eventually master and perfect the activity by doing it repeatedly.
“Just as too much of food should not be given; too much of help should not be given to the child. Rendering him help when not needed, is stopping him from helping himself.” Dr. Montessori
Encourage him to take on challenges and to complete a task. When a baby starts crawling on his fours we think of his future and encourage him to crawl. Let us reason in the same fashion through the whole of his life. Upward of two years, we could encourage him to complete a puzzle on his own and when he is older guide him to complete his home work on his own. All these will help him develop his self esteem.
“if, therefore, what we mean by education is to help the child’s developing life, we can only rejoice each time he shows us that he has reached a new level of independence”( Dr. Montessori.)