Children want to have some independence. Maria Montessori recognized this while observing students. Her studies led to the creation of “Follow the Child,” a Montessori philosophy that says it is best to give students freedom within limits. Let the child move through the world, discovering things on their own time, in their own way. Yet, how do parents and guardians follow the child and let children do things by themselves?
Turns out that what you tell your child has a tremendous impact on how they perceive themselves. That is why you should practice saying these five phrases to empower your child.
1. “You did it all by yourself!”
A simple “You did it!” goes a long way. Having a sense of accomplishment is truly motivating, and it will drive children to attempt even harder tasks. For instance, when your child learns to pour a glass of orange juice without spilling a drop, it is time to pause and celebrate. They will gain a boost of confidence. In their mind, they think, “If I can do this by myself, what else am I capable of? What should I try next?”
So tell your child this phrase whenever they accomplish something they have been working on. Even if it’s not perfect, show them how proud you are of their independence and willingness to try.
2. “Would you like to try?”
When you are trying to teach your child a new skill, demonstrate it first. Then ask, “Would you like to try?” Remember that your child is free to decline. However, whenever they observe, give them a chance to try. If they are watching you sweep or put away dishes or sorting laundry, give them the option to join in. This invitation shows your child that you value their assistance.
Plus, children want to help around the house. By offering a chance to help with completing a task, they feel included and respected.
3. “You’re making great progress.”
Since Montessori focuses on intrinsic motivation and the growth mindset, you must rethink how you praise your child. If you quickly approve of the result but not the process, it goes against intrinsic motivation. Instead, you should comment on how hard they worked or concentrated on the task, how they were resilient even when the objective was difficult. This teaches your child that they are capable do doing anything they put their mind to.
4. “Tell me how you would like me to help.”
How many times have you stopped your child while they were trying to do something and did it for them? “Let me do that” is a controlling phrase. It restricts their potential, because the child feels incapable.
Instead, encourage their independence by asking if they want help. “Which part can I help you with?” is much better than taking the reins from them.
Children want responsibilities. They want to be a part of the community. In the Montessori classroom, the teacher will ask a child if they need help or remind the students that they can ask for help whenever they need it. Otherwise, it is best to give your child manageable tasks that they can try without needing to be saved.
5. “Give it a try. I’m here if you need me.”
Parents often have a difficult time with letting their child do things without assistance. You are always ready to zip up their jacket or quickly tie their shoes. However, this can hinder their development. How you react to things your child finds difficult shapes who they are. If you rush in to rescue them every time they face a challenge, it makes children believe that you don’t think they are capable.
Conversely, a child who becomes overwhelmed by a task but has no one to ask for assistance may never want to do that task again.
By telling your child to try something while staying nearby sends a different message. It shows them that you believe in them, but you are also to help if they end up confused or stuck. This is the kind of reassurance a child wants.
Here is an example: Your child is learning how to write their name. They are frustrated because they can’t remember all the letters. Ask if they would like for you to tell them the next letter instead of hopping in to write the whole name down.
Empowering your child the Montessori way is bound to give them a boost of confidence and the courage to persevere. By changing how you speak with your child, you can shift your tone towards encouragement, so your child feels your love and support without also feeling incapable. In turn, they will grow to be independent adults.
Looking for a Montessori school in Philadelphia? Fishtown Montessori has several programs that are the perfect fit for any child. Schedule a tour with Fishtown Montessori. See what makes our community so wonderful.