A Child's Needs

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Children often seem driven by impulses beyond an adult's ability to comprehend. In fact, you may have asked yourself questions like these about their behavior: 'Why must my child put his shoes on then take them off three or four times in a row before we can finally leave the house?' Or, 'What is the problem if the blocks aren't put away the same way every time? I just don't get why it upsets my child.'

The short answer is that we're not quite sure what their reason, but children often have a strong desire, according to his or her specific development, to complete a task in a very particular way. On this topic, Maria Montessori wrote that: "The child of this age sets out to do a certain task, perhaps an absurd one to adult reasoning, but this matters not at all; he must carry out the activity to its conclusion. There is a vital urge to completeness of action, and if the cycle of this urge is broken, it shows in deviations from normality and lack of purpose." (From Education for a New World)

While developing her curriculum, Montessori observed how important it is for young children to be allowed the time and space to complete a task according to their own inner drive. Adults are often tempted to step in to instruct a child, 'Let me show you how to do it.' While this is helpful when a child is extremely frustrated or in danger, other times it actually interrupts the child's progress towards mastering a new skill. Montessori has advice on this too: "Adults therefore should not interfere to stop any childish activity however absurd, so long as it is not too dangerous to life and limb! The child must carry out his cycle of activity." 

One way parents can find patience in these moments is to observe your child closely and ask yourself, 'What is she trying to discover? What is she learning and teaching herself?' Your child will be happier when allowed to complete a task uninterrupted. Watch them at play and see what you can discover about their development needs in that moment.

Guidepost Montessori is a a global network of schools serving 3,500+ families with early education programs, including Emergency Care for Essential Workers (ECEW) during the COVID-19 crisis. Looking for more free content? Download Guidepost Parent from the App Store for personalized Montessori inspiration and activities.

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