Think of why you are on this page reading things about ‘parenting’. Because you are aware that you are a big factor on what your child is becoming and learning. As caregivers, we automatically become the provider of a physical environment for our child to grow up in. Our home, the school and parks we choose, the vacations we take and the markets we visit; all become, inevitably, the physical environments that our child belongs to.
Similarly, we provide the psychological environment to our child, too. Our relationship with our child, the other relationships that we have around the child, the way we interact with everyone around us, from a shopkeeper to our own parents, all become reference points for our child to make sense of the world. They take it in as it is. They believe “This is how the world is.”
Have you read/watched ‘The Jungle Book’? Who does Mowgli learn from? His environment, right? He learns to climb trees like a monkey and smell danger like all the animals around him! The same is true for our children. I know it’s fiction, but when we read /watch it, we don’t find it ridiculous at all! Because, we already know this. Children learn from the environment around them.
It’s important to mention here that they learn from all and any environment. They soak it all in irrespective of good and bad. If a child spends her early years in a hostile environment, hostility becomes ‘normal world’ to her. If another grows up in respect and trust, that takes the meaning of ‘normal’ for her.
Therefore, it is safe to say that our role as caregivers is crucial and must be looked at mindfully and heartfully.
We are charged with the responsibility to create a safe physical environment that says “YES” to our child – an environment that they can explore and be safe.
Similarly, we are responsible to create a psychological environment that sees respect and trust as its foundational pillars – a psychological space which says to the child “Go on, explore, you are safe here. We trust and respect the fact that you know what’s best for you!”
Let’s take a quick look at why and how children learn so much from their environments.
Young children possess an extraordinary power of mind that was termed as ‘The Absorbent Mind’ by Dr Maria Montessori.
The Absorbent Mind: The tremendously powerful ability of the young mind to absorb the environment around, right from its birth to age of 6 years.
Isn’t it marvellous that children pick up the language of their environment with no specific teaching? They absorb it with enormous precision. I am sure you can think of other examples where the child just learnt something all by herself in these early years. We do know that children learn even when they are developing in their mother’s womb. They can engage a lot more of their senses when they are born and come out into the world where their drive is to become more and more independent.
The Absorbent Mind takes impressions totally, globally and instantaneously.
The workings of an Absorbent Mind can be compared to the working of a camera film. The film records all that it is exposed to in the minutest details. Whether the picture taken is of one subject or a roomful, the camera takes the same amount of time to record the impression.
Similarly, everything that is a part of its environment is taken in by the Absorbent Mind in its totality: the physical setting, the relationships between and among people and objects, the modes of behaviour and means of communication, and the social, moral and emotional values.
The impressions taken in by the Absorbent Mind become an integral part of the psyche of the young child.
Simply put, this means that in the first six years of their lives, children are not just learning from their environments, they are becoming what they experience in their environments.
In a nutshell
All this work of the Absorbent Mind is for the development of the entire foundation of one’s personality and abilities – intelligence, memory, language, coordination of movement and all that is needed for the overall development of the body and the mind. This power of a young child’s mind is why caring for them mindfully and heartfully is so crucial in the first 6 years of their lives.
Explore various pages on our website for more specific suggestions for creating more mindful physical and psychological spaces for our children.
A Chartered Accountant by chance and a school teacher by choice, Aditya is an AMI Montessori trained guide. He owes his parenting philosophy and values to Dr Maria Montessori, Magda Gerber & Janet Lansbury and tenets of Buddhist philosophy; though he believes that his most insightful parenting moments have come with his kindest teacher – his two year old son.
Helping parents and being a school-teacher are his ways of bringing more respect, choice and freedom to children.