Dr. Montessori devoted an entire chapter of her book, The Secret of Childhood, to walking with a young child. She says with importance that a child who can walk must never be carried. What a difference from our usual way, isn’t it! She explains further that young children walk for completely different reasons than adults walk. Adults walk to get to a specific place. Children walk to walk. If you’ve ever walked with a child, I’m sure you can relate to the idea that the child is not simply trying to get from point A to point B. She strongly encourages the adult to adjust his/her walking pace to accommodate the child. She says, “the line of conduct to be followed by an adult is that of renouncing his own advantages so that he can accommodate himself to the needs of the growing child,” (Montessori, 1936).
What does this look like on a daily basis in modern times? First and foremost, it means allotting extra time. When we are rushed, we become forced to do the quickest thing possible. And the quickest thing possible is not letting your 18-month old set the walking pace for walking into school. However, this is the ideal. I want to focus on the word ideal because sometimes things do not go as planned or sometimes the child is having more difficulty adjusting and would never actually make it to the door of the classroom if the pace was hers alone. On a daily basis, letting your child walk on her own and setting the pace may look a lot different from someone else’s walking in on her own. That’s okay! We are all different. But, we can remember that the focus is on the ideal of your child walking in on her own at a comfortable pace for your child.
But doesn’t carrying the child convey care? Sometimes, yes. But sometimes it simply becomes a crutch for the child’s independence. You as the parent are the only one who will know the best course of action. Sometimes, our children can begin to think that an adult doing things for a child is the only way to receive caring feelings. This is what we want to avoid. Jane Nelsen, of the popular Positive Discipline series suggests that a child who feels that she only matters when others are doing things for her suffers from the mistaken goal of “undue attention,” (Nelsen, 2015). Both of my children have fallen into this pattern from time to time, so I have experience on all sides of this issue. Nelsen offers several suggestions for overcoming this pattern: redirect the child to a useful task and give useful attention, e.g. have the child wash a table and thank her for the work; use touch without words, verbally reassure the child but set healthy boundaries, e.g. “I love you, and we will spend time together after school, but right now it’s time for you to go to school and for mommy to go to work”; or perhaps plan special time together. To see Jane Nelsen’s full mistaken goals chart (a wonderful tool for any parent), click here to see the full Mistaken Goals Chart or pick up any of Jane Nelsen’s wonderful books.
Montessori, M. (1936). The secret of childhood. London, New York Longmans, Green and Co.
Nelsen, J. (2015). Mistaken Goals Chart. retrieved from: http://www.newhorizonirvine.org/wp-content/