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Notes to a Montessori Parent. On being 'not so' available.

Otis with handfulls of Gumnuts at HWM

We all want to be available to our children, to be there when they need us. But is it possible there are times when we are too available, that asking us for help is quicker and easier for the child than working it out for themselves?

I have written many times about the importance of giving the child time and space, not to hover. Well, I'm now suggesting there are times we need to make ourselves 'not so' available.

It wasn't that long ago that Otis claimed he couldn't tie his shoelaces. His teacher told me could and that he tied his own shoelaces at school. I had given him help at home and he had received plenty of demonstrations. However, he just kept on pleading for help. The best solution I found was to make myself 'not so' available. If we were going out and Otis needed to put his shoes on, I would make myself not at all available (leave the room) and he would tie his shoelaces himself. Or I would say something like 'Otis we are going out now I'll meet you down at the car' and I would give him lots of time and wait for him at the car. 

Recently I was really busy and needed Caspar (9yrs) to independently make the both his and Otis' school lunches. I knew we had lots of good food options and that Caspar was capable. He did a fantastic job, he knew which foods Otis liked and packed the lunchboxes and snack boxes so well. Now, most often when the boys make their school lunches I make myself 'not so' available, they actually don't need me at all. If I am there they will ask me 'what shall I put in here', 'is this enough', 'I don't know what to eat', 'I can't reach this'... But when I am not there they make their own decisions and manage really well. 

I have also seen this in action when the boys are doing puzzles or construction work. Often when doing puzzles they will ask for help but if I am not there will really persevere. With construction work and other arts and crafts often they will ask me where something is before taking a really good look themselves. 

Please note that I would not leave my child unattended or unsupervised if there was a safety concern. By making myself 'not so' available means that I am not automatically there to give the child help, this gives them time and space to work it out for themselves. When making myself 'not so' available I often leave the room, check the mailbox, put on some laundry, make a phone call or simply hide in my bedroom. I would only use this if I knew the child was capable of doing the task and I would always check in on them (peek around the corner) or listen to find out how things were going. 

I was recently talking to Otis' teacher about some specific issues he was having with reading. The teacher noted that he didn't have that problem at school as he would work it out himself. Was he just asking me for help because I was there? This one is a little more difficult because often we are reading together snuggled up in bed and I'm not going to leave the room so he can work it out for himself. We can provide prompts and minimal help but this a real example of how the child will ask for help when help is available. 

Have you tried this or think making yourself 'not so' available would help at your home?

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