There are few things parents want more than anything for their children; that they grow up happy, healthy and with a fully developed sense of self-worth. A confident child faces new challenges head-on, and that independent spirit will serve them well throughout a lifetime of challenges. Hence lies one of the greatest gifts of Montessori education.
The Montessori approach is all about hands-on learning, and nothing builds confidence more than competence. Montessori education encourages your child to explore all sorts of tasks on their own, which is a natural way to build self-esteem. After all, self-esteem isn’t something you can hand to your child as you would a gold star or a participation trophy. It’s something that must be earned through actual accomplishment.
Dr. Maria Montessori developed her educational philosophy by direct observation of children’s natural development and focused on both physical and emotional changes as children learned and grew. “Happiness,” she wrote, “is not the whole aim of education. A man must be independent in his powers and character; able to work and assert his mastery over all that depends on him.”
In the Montessori philosophy, learning is aimed squarely at achieving independence, which in turn leads to self-esteem. Happiness is a fortunate byproduct, but true self-esteem comes from working and doing, not from external rewards.
To aid children in achieving confidence-building independence, Montessori educators thoughtfully set up their classrooms to make it easy for children to do tasks on their own. Child-sized furniture and tools are provided so that children between the ages of three and six can master fine motor skills like pouring, mixing, and cutting just to name a few. They are also encouraged to do everything they can on their own and to find creative solutions to problems.
Older children are shown a concept or skill and then given the opportunity to test and practice these new ideas on their own. This allows children to be in charge of their own learning, and such responsibility also leads to improved self-esteem. When children know that adults trust them to master a skill or new material, they quite naturally rise to the challenge.
Feeling secure and loved is the basis for building self-esteem in children, so the role of the parent is vital. You can also reinforce your child’s sense of accomplishment by providing opportunities for them to use newly developed skills at home. For example, if your child has been practicing mixing and stirring, let them climb up on a chair and help you prepare dinner.
Respect and trust are two important foundations in the relationship between student and teacher at a Montessori school, and you can continue to build that at home by trusting your child to use their skills and respecting their belief that they can accomplish a task. Remember: Just because you haven’t seen your child brush their hair doesn’t mean that they can’t do it! Allow your child the opportunity to shine, and they will rise to the occasion.
All this might be new to you, your child wearing mismatched socks or allowing more time for them to get ready rather than swooping in to do the job yourself. The results are more than worth it, though. Your child will feel competent and confident, and ready to move on to accomplishing a lifetime full of tasks with self-esteem they earned by doing so on their own. This is the greatest gift you could possibly bestow on your child!