The way we think about ourselves develops primarily in the early years – specifically, between the ages of 0 and 6. Every parent wants their child to feel confident and comfortable with themselves – but how can we encourage this positivity in their self-image without simultaneously encouraging arrogance? Similarly to self-motivation, developing the child’s self-esteem is not a skill we can teach or even show them – it’s a characteristic that we have to nurture so it can develop over time. When a child feels good about themselves it often projects into their work, attitude, and relationships – typically creating a sense of happiness and success.
The Montessori Approach
The entire Montessori environment focuses on giving children the opportunities to be successful, but letting them figure out exactly how to reach that accomplishment on their own. The materials provided in the classroom are made to mimic practical life tasks, but the teacher doesn’t actually “teach” the students how they work. In fact, these materials are often self-correcting, meaning – they can show the child a mistake has occurred, but in a way that actually encourages the child to change their behavior in order to accomplish the task at hand.
On the other hand, however, modern-day society has taught us that building the child’s self-esteem requires continuous praise, reward, and protection from anything that could make them feel “bad” about themselves. We should absolutely show our children love and affection, but a life without obstacles and failures is not realistic – and how are we teaching our children to act in the face of failure if we’re always protecting them from it?
The Repetition of Success
Maria Montessori once said, “never help a child with a task at which he feels he can succeed.” When we intervene and help them complete the task (or do it for them), we take away these opportunities that encourage them to feel proud and successful in their work. By allowing children to experience the opposite feeling – one of confidence – it often encourages them to succeed. Montessori education focuses on not only giving the child the opportunity to experience this feeling, but also by repeating it continuously. The more often a child feels successful, the more their self-esteem is able to grow – affecting their overall attitude and mindset.