Part Thirteen of Many: The Montessori Life: Montessori Parenting for Infants and Toddlers

Maria Montessori believed that children were in the business of learning, and that left to themselves in the appropriate environment, they would do just that. By not forcing children to adhere to an external and somewhat arbitrary set of learning standards, they would eventually get to the point that they learned all of that anyway, simply by loving to learn. She suggested that parents and teachers should “follow the child” and she made the same suggestions in parenting babies as well.

A lot of focus is placed on helping babies and toddlers learn to be independent and self-soothing. Many parents even allow their children to cry themselves to sleep, based on the idea that if their physical needs are met, babies don’t need anything else. If you want to parent your children in a Montessori way, you should respond as soon as you possibly can to any cry. Obviously, you respond to any physical needs first. Address a wet diaper, potential burp and hunger. Some children can be put in their beds and will stop crying immediately because they are tired. Others may want to fall asleep on you, needing the emotional comfort as well as the rest. I also read once that if a baby won’t stop crying no matter what you try, you should check to make sure there is no thread or hair cutting off the circulation to a finger or toe. After any physical needs are met though, the only needs left are emotional. You baby may just want to be held and rocked. It felt good to her in utero, and may now be a reminder of feeling that safety and security.

I’m a big advocate for baby-wearing. It’s not always practical or convenient, but if the options are carrying the baby or slinging her onto my chest or hip, the sling is usually the more convenient choice. It addresses her need to be held, as well as my need to get stuff done.

To those who suggest that carrying my baby is encouraging her to be dependent and not learn things for herself, I’d like to point out the following: children want to be independent. They want to learn how to do things on their own. They want to assert their individuality, just as soon as they are really aware of it themselves. They are in the business of learning. I’ve never met a two-year-old who didn’t like to say “no.” I’ve also never met an infant who just learned to walk who didn’t want to walk anywhere on their own. I have however met many children, teens and adults who learned early on that their parents weren’t going to be there for them.

There are many people who are critical of attachment parenting philosophies. If you are feeling like other people are judging you for your choice to follow your child’s lead, remind yourself that they are really probably judging themselves. They may or may not believe that their way is better, but they probably feel guilty for all of the nights they allowed their kids to cry themselves to sleep. Just remember the reasons that you chose your way. So long as those reasons are still valid, so is the choice. You can do it.

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