What is

Interdependence, or pro-social behavior, “refers to actions that are intended to aid or benefit another person or group of people without the [child’s] anticipation of external rewards. Such actions often entail some cost, self-sacrifice, or risk on the part of the [child].”

— Mussen, Paul and Eisenberg-Berg, Nancy. Roots of Caring, Sharing, and Helping: The Development of Prosocial Behavior in Children.  San Francisco: W.H. Freeman and Company, 1977.

What is interdependence, in English?

Sympathy, generosity, charitable donations, service, sharing, etc. It also encompasses grace & courtesy and conflict resolution. In other words, all the behaviors required to be a productive member of society when the child is grown.

How does a child learn interdependence?

Montessori tells us the first stage of a child’s development, from birth to age 6, is an incredible time of unconscious development. From birth to age 3 the adult has little influence on their learning. The child will absorb the environment around him and make it part of his soul. He will learn his native language, adapt to the climate he is raised in, and honor any social order of his surroundings. This unconscious learning can never be wholly eradicated from our being. From ages 3 to 6, their personality changes slightly. Adults begin to have some influence on the child, but he is still absorbing his environment and forming her mind.

If that’s the case, what are we supposed to do as parents?

The most important thing we can do is role model and guide our children. They require consistent schedules and consistent reactions. Role modeling and guiding may look like this: Parent says “Good morning” to the teacher every day. Child will begin to say “Good morning” to the teacher. You say “Good morning,” but your child doesn’t. Ask a guiding, open-ended question like “What do you say to your teacher in the morning?” The child may or may not respond. Continue this modeling and guiding behavior. After years of practice, saying “Good morning” becomes part of the child’s day.

What limits should I set?

Setting limits is an art that is ever-evolving and personalized to your child. What works for some, may not work for others. All parents set some limits in common. These limits usually ensure the safety of our children. While we let them walk independently, we hold their hand in parking lots and on sidewalks. How they walk in a hallway, however, is a more interdependent action. This shared space requires courtesy to others. Sometimes a child will be uncooperative in these areas. As a guiding parent, we offer them a choice: “You can walk appropriately (hold my hand, don’t run, etc.) or I can carry you. Which would you like to do?” Montessori encourages us to “teach children limits with love or the world will teach them without it.”