The language of encouragement is the language of “can do”. Rudloph Dreikurs said, “Never do for a child what he can do for himself” If you spend time observing children in a Montessori classroom, you will see them putting on, taking off, pouring, emptying, cleaning, taking out, putting away, carrying materials, asking for help, waiting their turn and many other amazing “I can do it” behaviors. To show faith in a child and to boost their self confidence a caregiver needs to allow the child to make these contributions at home and in the hallways of the school. When you see a child with clothing inside out or shoes on the wrong feet it’s a wonderful opportunity to congratulate the parent on their courage and to tell the child how great they must feel to be able to dress themselves.
How often do we say to a child the following phrases: “Don’t do that”; “You’re too little”; Watch out you’ll fall”; thinking all these phrases keep our child safe. But what we don’t realize is that perhaps our child is ready for a new experience and our response can be discouraging all because we are afraid they will get hurt. Let’s look at how to encourage new skills. Instead of using a “Don’t” reframe it as a “do”. “Don’t jump on the sofa” can turn into “Do jump on the floor”. “You’re too little” can turn into “Let me see what you can do.” “Watch out you’ll fall” might mean we are afraid so share the rule around the new activity and move close enough to see how far they will go. Have faith that your child knows just how much they are ready to do at their particular stage of development. Many scraped knees have taught many lessons.
Whose job is it? Very often in our haste we take on “jobs” that belong to our child. The “job” of self-care is definitely easier if we do it ourselves but what does that teach our child. Every time we do something for our child that is his responsibility the unspoken message becomes “You are not capable”. This message is never our intent. Without meaning to we help our child to begin to believe he can’t do it as good as you and he may eventually give up, saying, “I can’t, I’m too little and expect you to do it. If you have delayed allowing your child to take on his own self care then discuss which ones he feels he is ready to handle and begin there. If your child is fighting you to do it, let him! There is nothing to appreciate or say thank you for if you don’t allow your child the joy of taking care of himself.