In a Montessori classroom, not only do we choose to observe the child in his surroundings before teaching him what we think he needs to know, we also show the child how to do something before explaining with our words.
Young children want to know how everything works. They never tire of this exploration, watching intently as an adult washes her hands, talks on the phone, puts on her socks, or eats her food. Often, I will catch my two-year-old son just standing contently at my feet watching me brush my teeth or comb my hair at the bathroom sink. Before I even have a chance to finish, he’s looking up me to exclaim, “Rossy’s turn!”
When we teach our children, we are eager to explain every step. This is positive, that we want to describe how things work and that we want to be a part of our children’s learning experiences, but when we tell them how to do something, they are listening to our voice and not watching our actions. When we use our words, they are watching our mouths and not our hands. They are missing the point.
Children don’t want adults to tell them how to do something. They want to see it done and then master it for themselves.
When teaching your child how to hang up a shirt, for example, use very few words. And in taking each step, move slowly, clearly and deliberately, and watch how well they engage. Sometimes the best learning experiences in our home come organically, when I don’t even know my children are watching me, and this is exactly why the way we move about our home matters so much to the child. They are watching for repetition, delight in the work, and physical engagement. They don’t want you to tell them, they just want to see it and then master it for themselves.
When we choose to use our words in explaining how something works, we also inadvertently are teaching our children the way we were taught something and the way we understood it. But what if our children learn differently? Showing and not telling allows a child to watch and then try for himself. And then, when it’s his turn, his mind will invest in his own actions and not be disrupted with the fear of, “Wait, what did Mom say I’m supposed to do next?” Using his hands and recalling how your hands folded the shirt, for example, will help to further solidify the movement in his own brain. He will also persist further without feeling obliged to ask questions or seek approval.
Your child doesn’t need approval from you, he simply wants to feel capable of accomplishing a task on his own. This is extremely rewarding for him! Just as we observe students in the classroom, watching for sparks of joy, allow your child the space to observe the way you move about life, sparking within himself his own true joy for the work.
Recommended for you: