Are you sure that you know your child? Did you get stumped like me with this question? This was the precise question asked by one of my Montessori friends. Honestly, till that time, I thought that I know my child like the back of my hand, and what is there to learn more about him or what will I gain by observing the child. But I was proven so very wrong by my dear friend, which was an eye-opener for me. So wanted to share my learnings with you all.
The moment I heard the phrase “Observing the Child“, my reaction was typical of any parent as to what is there to observe in my own child. I know my child completely and I can tell what are his likes and dislikes even when asked in a deep sleep. But there is more to a person than that isn’t it?
What is an Observation?
As per the dictionary meaning, Observation means its an action or process of closely monitoring something or someone. It’s about making notes or statement about one has seen or observed.
Then as a parent, we all do observe our children day in and day out. So we all think that we know our child isn’t it. But there is a different kind of observation which we need to practice to understand our child better.
Consider the following situation for example:
“A Child is struggling with a certain work, like putting his shirt buttons or tieing his shoelaces or some other work like that”
What would be your reaction as a parent? In order to save time, we try to jump in and help him with those tasks, isn’t it? Post the above task is completed, we leave it at that and move on to the next task or activity without really wondering why our child struggled so much in the first place. We don’t really understand the root cause of our child’s struggle. Which in turn means that we are not providing the opportunities for the child to overcome his difficulties in this case.
In another example, the child who performs the same repeated actions multiple times would be trying to explore and understand the underlying concepts in that activity. But as a parent or the caretaker of the child, we try to stop the child from performing the same activity multiple times and divert him to other activities, thinking that he might be bored with the same activity.
So in both these two cases, are we trying to complete the task and move to the next one, or are we really trying to “Observe the Child” and understand his needs? Though the answer seems hard, most of the parents try to fit into the first answer. That was also so typical of me before I encountered these gems from Montessori Parenting.
Why do we need to Observe the Child?
Now that, my friend has really opened my eyes related to the importance of Observation. I thought of having a candid talk with my child’s Montessori supervisors. I still had a lot of questions that needed answers and thought that my child’s aunty (the adult supervisor in his Montessori School) is the best person to address all my doubts.
When I first asked her the question about the need for the observation, she told me the following points.
- She can understand my child’s personality and how he handles the various situations
- His developmental needs and the areas where he struggles come out clearly.
- She can understand my child’s cognitive and social development needs
- She can really understand his skills and accomplishments
- Lastly, she can understand whether her strategies are working or not, so that she can plan further.
If my child’s aunty is able to understand so much about my child, there should be more that I need to understand when compared to her isn’t it? But then, unfortunately, that’s not the case. I need to accept this hard fact and adjust my mindset accordingly.
So, I asked her, as to what are the practices that I need to implement at home so that I can really help my child rather than just going with the flow. These are the tips she gave me, which I thought of sharing with you all, for the benefit of every parent.
Tips for Observing the Child:
The first and foremost tip she told me that I need to be a passive and patient enough to observe the child and take the objective notes about his behavior. I need to behave like a scientist while taking the notes, that have to be more objective in nature. I need to tune out everything that can act as distractions, including my own emotions.
- Observe to understand problem areas rather than to correct them. In our earlier example of the child tieing the shoelaces. We need to note down the problem areas while the child is trying to accomplish this task. Whether the child is facing issues in looping the lace, or pulling it underhand or tieing it actually. Once we note down the problem area, we to work on improving that skill later.
- Don’t offer assistance unless it’s really needed. Most of the time, we help the child and solve his problem instead of giving him the required space and time to complete the task on his own. In the earlier example itself, my child was not able to hold the shoelace in one hand and tie it with the other. So if I hold the shoelace in one hand till the time he can master tieing the knot, his problem would be solved. But where to help can be understood, only if I observe him more closely.
- Observe to understand the Child’s development needs. When we observe the child more closely, we can understand whether the child needs more practice with his fine motor skills, or gross motor skills or his pencil grip needs to be strengthened, etc. Based on these observations, we can provide the required material based on his development needs.
Overall, one simple advice I received from my child’s aunty is that I need to really give quality time to my child. Quality time, without any gadget distractions. The time I spend with my child should be enjoyable for the two of us and we should cherish it. The above said observations and notes taking would become an automatic habit if I start implementing the above three simple tips. If I have to put it in simpler terms, I need to follow the science of “Observing the Child” rather than go with all my emotions to understand my child better.
Related article, which I refer often is: montessori-basics-observation
So that’s where I am currently, trying to let my child handle things on his own, without putting my fears into his own. I am taking a step back and becoming a passive parent who speaks less and makes a lot of mental notes. I am just hoping that this way, my child would be able to find his own path without me breathing over him every minute. These slow parenting techniques which come under the Montessori Parenting techniques have eased my life.