Why Do We Care So Much About Independence?

The only true freedom for an individual is to have the opportunity to act independently … there is no such thing as an individual until a person can act by himself.” -Dr. Maria Montessori, Education and Peace

If you’re reading this article, you already know how much we Montessorians love to talk about independence. It’s enmeshed in everything we do, and for very good reasons. Here are our top three:

1. It builds lasting confidence.

We must help the child to act for himself, will for himself, think for himself; this is the art of those who aspire to serve the spirit.” -Dr. Maria Montessori, Education for a New World

As parents and caregivers, our natural inclination is to help and support our children. Imagine a newborn baby, completely dependent on others to have its most basic needs met. Of course we want to help! That instinct never really goes away, and it’s so strong that we need to actively remind ourselves to step back even as our children mature into adults.

Imagine, however, a toddler. It’s time to get out to the car so that everyone makes it to school and work on time. Their parents are feeling the rush of schedules, and feel a bit of frustration when, at the last moment, their little one insists on putting their own jacket on themselves. There are several ways to handle this situation, but what if we took two minutes out of our day to show the child how to stretch each arm into a sleeve and then gave them an opportunity to practice?

Imagine the feeling a small person must have when they are first able to do something for themselves that they previously relied on others to help them with?

Imagine the messages you are sending that child: that you believe they are capable, that you trust their judgement. That their work is important.

Each time a child learns to do something without the assistance of an adult, they build up their confidence, and it becomes exponentially easier to believe in themselves as time goes on.