Lately, on social media I am seeing a trend, almost a push to make toddlers into these mini adults. While I do believe toddlers are extremely capable and can do a lot of things, but this perceived independence associated with Montessori is really a misconception of independence. There are things toddlers are learning to do in the area of self-care, which is a very big sensitive period; however, these tasks aren’t mastered in this stage, nor it should be forced as a level of mastery. That is developmentally not appropriate.
Toddlers are more in a stage of collaboration versus independence. We collaborate so they can learn the skills that they will need to be independent.
Independence is a big mistaken goal of an adult. In United States, there is this push to make children independent early on. My favorite one is that they should be able to sleep in their own crib by themselves. From early on, we force independence. It isn’t an independence that comes naturally without healthy connection. That’s a forced goal by adults who are terribly misguided by social media and false advetisement.
Brain does, what?
A child’s most important and basic need is a need for SAFETY. They feel safe when they are closer to their primary caregiver. In the first stage of child’s life, a child is completely dependent on us for food, love, warmth, safety, cleanliness. When these basic needs are met, child develops TRUST. Child’s need for safety is so much greater at this stage that we are still researching and learning the full effects on brain when these needs are not met. Studies have confirmed that when infants and children need for safety and love goes unmet, they produce a stress hormone called cortisol. ” Children who are continuously exposed to traumatic and stressful situations, which is if they are left alone to cry for longer period of time, or when their emotional and attachment needs go unmet, they develop a hyper-reactive stress response. This destroys the developing brain’s architecture and has harmful effects on a child’s ability to learn.”
Yet, we push for sleeping independently and playing independently. Why? What exactly are we afraid of? That our children will be too attached to us!
Is independence in toddlerhood a realistic goal?
A simple search on Google on this topic gives us all the tools, tips, and strategies to make our toddlers independent. However, none talks about the connection. I wonder when or why this push for independence in the mainstream became so big.
When our children are infants, we are in tuned with their need for connection but suddenly when that same infant begins to talk and walk, we begin to think they should be doing more. They should be cooking breakfast, eating independently, playing alone by themselves, putting their shoes on, clothes, giving themselves a bath etc. We start the process of making them adults. I am not saying that they shouldn’t be doing all those things when they are ready or that we shouldn’t introduce those care of self-care lessons; I am saying that it shouldn’t be a goal. It should be a natural process that simply happens because of prepared environment not from the frenzy of an adult deciding that today my child will put his socks on by himself and will achieve the mastery in a week.
In toddlerhood, children are beginning to gain a LITTLE independence. And I want to emphasize on this word, little. In this stage, when child’s basic need of connection is met, he will exert independence and will. Doing this with a healthy connection will develop healthy autonomy in our children.
So, if your toddler isn’t ready to be independent yet that’s okay, they are fulfilling their strongest human need, a need for connection. Let them be a little closer to you now so they can develop a healthy independence.