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How to I nurture independence in my child?

Parenting is a journey filled with ups and downs, and sometimes, without even realizing it, we may unintentionally limit our child's independence.

Perhaps it's out of concern for their safety or a desire to protect them from failure. However, by doing so, we may inadvertently hinder their growth and development.

But here's the beautiful thing – fostering your child's independence isn't just beneficial for them; it also strengthens your bond and deepens your relationship. When you collaborate with your child to build independence, you're creating a trusting, safe environment where they feel empowered to explore, learn, and grow. And in turn, you'll experience the joy of witnessing their achievements and the satisfaction of knowing that you've helped them become confident, capable individuals.

Here are are some Montessori-inspired, evidence-based ways you can support your child’s growing independence at home:


Embrace simplicity and scaffold skills

Whether it's taking a walk together, cooking a meal, or reading a book, focus on the simple moments that bring joy and connection, while scaffolding skills for your child.

What is scaffolding? It’s the process of breaking down skills in a doable progression and a hallmark of Montessori’s materials. Want your child to be able to cook eggs independently by 7 years old? Once your child can stand, invite them up to the counter to crack eggs with you, mix them, pour them in a pan, and stir the scrambled eggs. As their skills develop they will be able to crack and mix the eggs independently. As the show more care and gain responsibility, can you trust them with starting the stove. And by 6 years old, you might be able to simply observe and support if they need you. By 7 they might take on the responsibility of making scrambled eggs for themselves and their siblings one school day a week, and on Sunday mornings. 

Remember, "I can embrace simplicity." Trust that these small acts of presence and love are what truly matter, and are an investment in their future independence.


Make space for “Wants something” AND “Wants nothing” quality time

“But mama, I can’t. You do it.”

For a child to act independently, they need to feel safe and secure, and a key component is quality time with you. There’s nothing like time feeling loved and learning from you to prime the brain for independence. The next time your little one expresses self-doubt, resistance, or frustration, use this model of Quality Time from Magda Gerber’s Original R.E.I. Manual:

“Wants Nothing” Quality Time

This is when the parent doesn’t want anything of the child, and has no plans other than wanting to simply be with the child. This looks like floor-sitting, being available, and with all of your senses awakened to the child; watching, listening, and thinking of only that child. Here the child sets the pace and is the initiator.

It sounds easy, but can you do it? Let me know in the comments. 

“Wants Something” Quality Time.

 This is when you do have a goal to accomplish something together, such as dressing, bathing, feeding, etc. This, too, should be regarded as quality time. You can make sure the child knows that this time is different from your “Wants Nothing” time by actually saying, “Now I want to diaper you,” “Now it’s time to get dressed,” etc.

This is time where you are available and have expectations of your child. It’s time you can both enjoy and introduces and reinforces expectations and discipline (teaching) moments.

Magda Gerber’s concept of Quality Time can help you embrace simplicity with your child.


Nurture independent exploration

Try this simple technique for a child-centred approach to free-exploration time.

Reflect back what your child observes and tells you, without adding to it. It can be hard not to attach an opinion, or additional context, but the goal is giving our children a chance to lead their own exploration centred around their own knowledge and curiosities.

Child: “I see a bug.”

You: “You see a bug.”

And then wait.

See what else your child offers. Or what they move on to. It might just surprise you with how self-directed they can be. It might feel like you’re not doing enough, but your presence and genuine interest in what your child observes communicates confidence in your child’s abilities, and creates the space they need to explore at a comfortable pace.

What happened when you did this?


A quick way to help your child be more independent today 

Today, notice your child is doing something well and use its as an opportunity to nurture independence. Pause. Observe. And share something positive you notice.

You can say something like:

“The way you are holding that cloth gathers the crumbs well.”

“You dropped that book and put it back right away. Your dad will be happy to see his book where he left it.”

“You’re all dressed. You look ready to greet the day!”

“You picked up all the paper and put the scissors back. Now the table is ready for the next artist.”

By reserving judgement or praise, you are helping your child build sustained focus, connecting tasks to complete a job from start to finish instead of encouraging your approval every step of the way.

Read more about the Montessori art of Observation in our article, Why and how to observe your child.


A Mindfulness exercise to support you as you work on encouraging your child to be more independent 

This week, try this 2 minute mindfulness exercise: Take a moment to reflect on how you foster independence in your child with love and guidance. Embrace the role of a supportive guide, offering encouragement and assistance as your child explores the world around them.

☀️ This week remind yourself: "I’m committed to fostering independence with love and guidance."

Fostering independence in our children is a part of our parenting journey that requires patience, love, and guidance. We can create a supportive environment where our children can explore, learn, and grow with confidence when we stay focused on building their capacities, instead of setting consequences for every misstep.

You can water the flowers, instead of the weeds.

As you go about your week, carry this wisdom with you. Embrace opportunities to encourage your child's independence, offering collaboration and support along the way. By fostering independence with love and guidance, you'll empower your child to become a self-reliant, resilient, and confident individual.


Want more of these calming mindfulness exercises? 

In 2023 I started emailing a weekly mindfulness practice for Montessori parents to help elevate our parenting and show up for our families prepared and renewed:⁠6 months ago, I started sending out a weekly mindfulness practice email. To help elevate our parenting and show up for our families prepared and renewed:⁠

☀️ 1 email/week⁠

☀️ 1 minute to read

☀️ 1 science-backed mindful parenting mantra and insight⁠

And it's been growing ever since. Want to join the list?

[Add me to the list!]



Related Questions 

Why and how do I observe my child?

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