Bill Conway, Principal
I’ve learned recently that independence can come about in surprising ways. For example, we sometimes have to trust that someone can do something even if they have not yet demonstrated the expected abilities. The pure fact that you have entrusted them – believed that they can do it – brings forth a new found confidence AND ability in the child. For example, one of our teachers recognised the children were not being very independent and therefore kept leading them to activities. The teacher decided to stop leading them and indicated a trust and belief that they could choose work independently. It took a few precarious days where these children wandered around a bit, but all of a sudden they knew it was up to them, and not up to the teacher, to choose the work they wanted to do and… voila!
This tactic brought these children to consistent active learning – and a strong feeling of ownership in their own learning.
The same idea can be applied at home and for very young children. As adults, we’re often too quick to step in for various reasons.
We know that independence is the ability to do things and think for ourselves. Therefore to become independent, children need practice. In the beginning it’s doing simple things on their own. Slowly they gain skills and confidence so that their little inner voice says “I am capable” and “I am trusted to do things.’
Here are three things you can do to foster independence;
1. Create opportunities for independence – give limited choices, create an accessible environment at home for independence.
2. Model behaviour. Show them how to do daily activities, Involve them where ever possible
3. Make time. Allow sufficient time for your child to finish the task, eg. putting on shoes. This respectful to the child as they build competency and grow.
Sounds simple? It is. All it takes is a little mindfulness as we go about our daily lives with children.
Maria Montessori famously wrote that we shouldn't help a child with that which he can do for himself. This is a principle we value highly in Montessori methods.
Resources for parents:
The website Aid to Life provides some excellent ideas for small children and this link focuses on independence.