I caught a piece on the news yesterday about a “new” way of parenting babies/toddlers that Hollywood parents are all over. I found it humorous that the ABC commentators really poo-poohed it. They like the idea of letting kids have their childhood, giving them toys, etc. I think they were misled by the video’s referring to the method as treating them like adults. The video showed babies sitting at a little table for snack, pouring their own beverages, serving themselves their own portions. I have seen this very scene hundreds of times in early childhood classes. Letting children do whatever they are capable of doing is one of the principles of Maria Montessori’s revolutionary methods of working with small children…and they absolutely love it.
In the parenting class I am now teaching, we have been discussing what it means to overindulge children. Jean Illsley Clarke, author of the excellent book, How Much is Enough?, suggests that overindulgence means more than giving children too much stuff. She includes over-nurturing. “When parents do too much for their children.” She says, “Often these are tasks that children should be doing for themselves. Over-nurturing prevents kids from becoming competent in everything from ordinary household chores to developing coping skills and interpersonal skills.”
I have been reading a lot lately about how young adults are entering the work force with poor work ethics, how they are unable to manage money, and about a sense of privilege they seem to have. I think a big part of the problem is the tendency of parents to do too much for children. So often it is the easier, more efficient route to take when parents are stressed and busy. But we aren’t doing our children a favor if they have to spend the first few years of their lives out in the world learning the lessons of caring for themselves.
In a former parenting class, a mother shared her experience of becoming aware of how her impatience was leading her to do too much for her children. She said that she was having trouble getting her child to settle into his car seat without squirming and crying. One day, she let him get into the car seat and buckle it himself. He was so proud of his accomplishment, he settled in just fine. Later, she said, she let him help cut vegetables for dinner even though it meant prep time was extended. He stopped the habit of following her around the kitchen nagging her for something to eat. She said, “I realized that my impatience was doing him a disservice. I began to slow down and make conscious choices that may have been less efficient, but were better for him.”
Here is the short video about this “new” method: