We spend much of our time raising our children to be independent. But what is independence actually? In the bigger picture, independence is the state of being free of the control of some other entity.

But we also need to realize that Independence is part of our Human Tendencies.

Human Tendencies were determined by Maria Montessori. They can be defined as attributes that exist in each individual which stimulate her/him within the society. They help humans to survive and adapt in a particular time and environment. Without these Human Tendencies, the survival of Man would have not been possible.

The tendency for independence finds expression at all levels of our personality: psychological, emotional as well as physical.

  • Physical: this refers to the ability of being free to move. A baby, for example, will strive for physical independence with his ability to walk and talk.
  • Emotional: Man seeks his ability to regulate his emotions. The idea here is that we do not have to look for outside sources than ourselves to feel good.
  • Intellectual: this implies that Man is responsible for his own thinking and is self-governed, free from any pressures or conventions.

We will always strive for independence in all these aspects of our personality, but the tendencies will be manifested differently over the stage of development.

Independence through the age

Maria Montessori observed that development of the child was made possible thanks to a natural process that all children undertake spontaneously, guided through ever evolving stages of development.

She named the stages from birth to adulthood “The Four Planes of Development”, all lead by the quest for independence.

  • 0 to 6 years old: Physical and biological independence

Children will begin growing in independent play and task completion, practicing the mentality: “I can do it myself!

  • 6 to 12 years old: Intellectual independence

The child has developed his core cognitive milestones. It encourages the child’s desire to know more and grow in his independence.

As a result of their evolving conscience, the child’s mentality now includes: “I can decide and think for myself!

  • 12 to 18 years old: Emotional and social independence

The child has a growing knowledge of the world around him and the emotions within. The plane of adolescence encourages self-concern and self-assessment, resulting in the next mentality: “I can make up my own mind!

As a result, adolescents will practice making more independent decisions, constructing a social life, and develop emotional independence.

  • 18 to 24 years old: Spiritual and moral independence

This plane marks children’s transition from adolescence to young adulthood, enhancing maturity as they transition into total independence.

This stage of development heavily demonstrates a strong desire for financial independence and decision-making resulting in the next mentality: “I can sustain myself”.

Independence in Montessori

Independence is indeed one of the cornerstones of the Montessori pedagogy.

In a Montessori classroom, we meet the need expressed in this sentence: “Help me do it myself”, which leads the child to a greater level of independence.

When a child arrives at the children’s home, it is much more important to show him/her how to become independent than to put the emphasis on academic activities.

Knowing how to put on a coat or pour water into a glass is far more important than counting to ten for a three-year-old child.

We are focusing on practical life activities which support independence, not only from a physical point of view but also from the psychological and emotional perspective.

These activities help the child to think and act for himself and prepare the child to become a contributing independent member to his world.

And we don’t put the emphasis on independence so children will grow up as fast as possible. We do this because children love it. Raising independent children makes sense.

Children want to be able to do more, to contribute, to be part be of their family or classroom.

Through independence, the child learns how to be responsible for caring for himself, others and the environment.

Why is independence so important?

We all need to be independent to survive. Learning how to support ourselves is essential to succeed in life.

And children will always try establishing their independence. We can already witness that when they refuse to eat the meal we have prepared or when they are doing things opposite of what we told them to do.

It is their way of showing their independence.

But if we suppress that tendency by over-parenting for example, they might grow to be dependent, get rebellious or unable to make their own choices.

And this is not what we want for our children but also for us, parents. Instead we should instead be raising independent children.

  • For this reason, our children’s quest for independence should be supported as much as possible to foster confidence, self-esteem and most importantly, self-efficacy, which is the belief we have in our capacity to act in the ways necessary to reach specific goals.
  • Being independent also gives our child a sense of importance and belonging which is essential for building social relationships and for contributing to the world.
  • It fosters self-reliance, allowing your child to feel they have control over their life.
  • It teaches them self-motivation as they have the freedom to find their own reasons to achieve.
  • It develops their levels of self-awareness and sensitivity towards others which teaches them to help those around them.
  • It provides them with the belief that they are competent and capable of taking care of themselves which makes them resilient to external challenges.
  • It allows them to become good decisionmakers as they have the freedom to consider various options before choosing the one they feel is best.
  • Finally, being independent makes our children happy and healthy as they feel a great sense of achievement and success as a direct result of their own actions.

If our children can develop the skills listed above, they have good chances to become a responsible and balanced adult who will flourish in a world where creativity, initiative and critical thinking are increasingly sought after and valued.


Marine Couturier