Even before being introduced to the Montessori concepts, I knew I wanted to raise independent children. The first parenting book I read was Raising Children Who Think for Themselves, by Elisa Medus. I am a natural fit for using Montessori methods except for one small problem: I have inherited the worry gene. My mind keeps a running production of the worst case scenario “what if’s”. That being said allowing my children to take risks is nerve racking to say the least.
Today I find myself with a three year old and a five month old. True to my desire I have a very independent son. Common phrases around our house are: “That is my hand Mommy,” “I need to do it,” and “I know how.” And the all out tantrum in those times happens when Mom simply can’t afford to let him express his abilities and independence. A perfect example is in-town bike riding. We take off with the stroller, and he rides his strider bike. I am teaching him the difference between sidewalk and road, alley and main streets, and biggest of all, how to stop and properly cross a crosswalk. This mostly consists of restricting diagonal cuts, road lingering, practicing jumping on the curb, and staying away from the street drain.
It becomes quite a challenge when there are construction cones in the road, service markings on the asphalt, or really big trucks coming. He wants to stop, inspect the drawings, point at the trucks, and hug the traffic cones. When Mommy steps in and forces a quick crossing by pushing his bike or picking the two of them up, he is infuriated. “I can do it, I can do it!” This is a time that no matter how much I want to allow my child to do it himself, it just isn’t practical. The risk is just too large; death or serious injury is the natural consequences to this lesson. A few episodes like this will leave any supermom feeling drained, frustrated and defeated. But c’est la vie with a toddler.
It is Really Quite Simple
Throughout the day I find myself constantly calculating risk and trying to determine if the activity at hand is a good exercise in independence or if I am beginning to border on the line of negligence. However, the line between fostering independence and being too lax is very dark. If there is a good chance of serious injury to your child, another child, a pet or yourself, then it is time to step in. There is so much pressure to raise environmentally conscious, independent, emotionally intelligent children that sometimes the number one goal of parenting is overshadowed: keep them alive. Lessons in independence should never seriously endanger the child’s physical health. Above all else, as parents, it is our job to keep our children safe and in one piece.