By Patricia Gaminde
The evolutionary process of children is one of constant change and development. It is important for parents to understand the needs, abilities and limitations of our children in order to better accompany and stimulate them through each stage.
Parents, however, tend to anticipate the actions of their children. They do so out of fear, because it is more convenient, or simply out of the belief that the child isn’t able to do something on their own. What if we trusted their abilities and gave them the chance to be more self-reliant?
“It’s important for children to strive for independence through small daily tasks.”
Parents, caregivers and teachers are the ones who must help them carry out these tasks and value the effort they put into them. By “tasks” we mean picking things up, putting things away, putting on and off clothes, going to the bathroom by themselves, helping clear out the table… On top of encouraging them to be more self-reliant, taking care of these tasks on their own helps kids orient themselves in their surroundings, be responsible for their stuff and feel included in family dynamics in a way that highlights their independence.
How can I help my child grow up with confidence and self-esteem? That is something important to keep in mind as well, an area where parents are particularly important. According to New York psychologist William James, from their early years children start to develop the ability to judge the expectations their parents set on them, and from there establish the bottom line for self-confidence.
A child who realizes they are able of putting on their bib and taking it off by themselves, who takes off their pants without help or towels off alone after a bath, realizes they have overcome a challenge.
As parents, we are proud to watch them grow into independent people. Why not make it easier for them? Let’s give them useful and practical tools that help them reach their milestones: help them say goodbye to diapers, feed and clean themselves, be cognizant of their own emotions… These learning processes not only promote good self-esteem, they also help children be more trusting of others, be more creative and more optimistic in the face of the challenges life will put in their way.
Photo of Maria Montesori from Associación Montessori Española
Maria Montessori, an Italian physician and educator, based her life’s work on her observation of children and their learning abilities. She wanted to prove that a child’s mind has the wonderful and unique ability to acquire knowledge, both in life and in a school setting. A child’s mind is infinite, and it absorbs knowledge by simply living.
According to one of her studies, by age 5 the brain reaches 80% of its adult size, thus proving the plasticity of the minds of children and their potential to learn while, at the same time, they satisfy their curiosity and stay motivated.
The more children learn, the more they want to know and do by themselves, which is something we can easily observe in our own children, since our role as adults is key in their development. It is us parents who must guide children towards a greater self-reliant, security and, ultimately, happiness.
We must give our children the chance to experience new things, take their ability to learn into consideration and help them be more independent. Greater self-reliance usually involves a higher-self esteem, and this is the way to help our children evolve and grow into healthy adults. Let us walk together with them on their journey.
Patricia Gaminde is a children’s psychologist and psychotherapist, specializing in the areas of re-education, family and psychopathology, as well as children’s development up to three years old.
With a Master’s degree in Psychoanalytical Clinical Practice of Children and Teenagers from University of Barcelona, she collaborates with the Centro Psicopedagógico and other public institutions specializing in child care such as the Orienta Hospitalet Foundation, the Eulalia Torres de Beà Foundation, and the Canigó School.