The Toddler's Sense of Dignity


We often forget that children don't automatically understand how to do some self-care tasks (blow their nose, comb their hair, wash their hands) that adults assume are easy. Remember: children really WANT to be able to do these things well & take care of themselves.

This wonderful extract from Dr. Montessori's book The Secret of Childhood, details the deep sense of personal dignity in young children:

“One day I decided to give the children a slightly humorous lesson on how to blow their noses. Since after I had shown them different ways to use a handkerchief, I ended by indicating how it could be done as unobtrusively as possible. I took out my handkerchief in such a way that they could hardly see it and blew my nose as softly as I could. The children watched me in rapt attention, but failed to laugh. I wondered why, but I had hardly finished my demonstration when they broke out into applause that resembled a long repressed ovation in a theatre. I had never heard such tiny hands make so much noise, and I had no idea that such small children would applaud so enthusiastically. It then occurred to me that I had perhaps touched a sensitive spot in their little social world.

No one really teaches them how they should blow their noses. When I tried to do so, they felt compensated for past humiliations, and their applause indicated that I had not only treated them with justice but had enabled them to get a new standing in society. Long experience has taught me that this is a proper interpretation of the incident. I have come to appreciate the fact that children have a deep sense of personal dignity.”

The Spirit of Self-Reliance


People often wonder why we make a big deal about children taking off their shoes on their own & placing them in the appropriate slots.

Wouldn't it be faster and easier if the adults just help them do it? Of course it would, but that is not the point. In Montessori, the goal is not to just get the act done, but to help the child recognise that they can take care of themselves.

Self-reliance and improved problem solving are important products of allowing children to become independent. Further, indirectly, children build their concentration, fine motor skills and co-ordination by relentlessly using their hands for a variety of self-care tasks.

Most of all, remember that we can help children remove their shoes. But what we cannot do is build self-confidence & independence FOR them. There are no shortcuts to this.