The child and the adult are two completely distinct entities of humanity. In order to comprehend the difference, we have to realize that each one of them is moving in different directions. For example, at home, while adults and children share the same house, they still pursue different goals. They are responsive to life in a different manner. One has to see this difference clearly and recognize it as such. We cannot put them on a level plain as it is the root cause of conflict between the child and the adult.
It is the adult’s own interest to know and understand the child and avoid mistakes. Depravation of children’s physical and mental health can result due to parental misunderstanding and ignorance. This is explained by Dr. Montessori. “Startling blindness of adults and their insensitivity with regard to their own offspring is something that is deeply rooted and of long duration. An adult who loves children but unconsciously condemns them, inflicting on them a secret sorrow which is a mirror of his own mistakes.” For example, adults often try to overcompensate for their children’s deficiency by completing tasks for them instead of letting the children learn and figure it out on their own. This can unconsciously condemn the child by making the child feel incapable. An adult does this because they feel guilty if they allow their child to struggle, but this inflicts a secret sorrow that deprives a child of much needed development.
Dr. Montessori extended her researches to normal children and discovered that the mental conditions occurring in deprived children, by comparison, originated from repression. When children are not allowed to express and show their real needs during infancy, they can develop serious mental conditions such as anger problems later in their life. This often leads to a damaging relationship between the child and the adult.
If this conflict is to be resolved, it is vital that we understand the differences between the child and the adult. The solution is not in their separation, but in the realization that the child and the adult are two dependencies. Each of them is doing their work, each fulfilling the role which is necessary for each other. While there is freedom and cooperation for each of them to follow their own aims of life, they must not abuse their freedoms. The real task is to prevent either the child or the adult from interfering or dominating. This can be very difficult because they share an intensely close relationship, but they each must maintain their own respected roles without greatly impeding the other’s.
It is true that the adult cannot do the child’s work and the child cannot do the adult’s work. The child has to follow his own inner directives, which is nature’s gift. Although the child is dependent on an adult for his needs, an adult must also accept that he is dependent on the child for mental, physical and spiritual endowment. Children can say, “I too have my kingdom and you adults are my dependents.” Adults cannot force the child to become an adult by dictating his patterns of life. The child must follow nature’s directives and create a man of his time, oriented to his place. Thus the child’s aim is internal; he works in order to grow.
There is a great difference between the child and the adult’s work within their environment. The adult has an external aim related to his environment. He has to finish some task. The child’s aim is internal, the outer action is only providing him the means, as he has to grow and become an adult, the ultimate goal of his life. Although the child is not conscious of his aim, he is doing the work with certain joy as he is fulfilling a vital need which nature has given him to do.
The work of both the child and of the adult has a specific relationship to the environment. The adult works to perfect his environment but the child works to perfect himself, using the environment as a means. Now the adult has no growth to accomplish until he has finished his development and has reached the norm of his species. But the child is in a stage of continuous transformation. For the child, the task is of growing up. The child has to achieve the maximum task at the minimum period of 0-18 years. The child works with different rhythm and tempo. It is not merely physical work but mental, the inner rhythm of human being. The child reaches his goal with endless repetition of the same work. He shows a great amount of patience as if he is following an inner view. To us an adult, when we watch children working it becomes a bit tiresome. Therefore, adults can hardly refrain from rushing in and taking over the action themselves in order to get it done. Adults feel like this because the whole working rhythm and tempo of our lives is different. We hasten towards the end as quickly and as economically as possible. Our future is all planned before us with their allotted tasks. We adults are impelled by an inner tension to fulfill the present by leaning over into an urgent “future.”
Therefore, as adults we cannot understand the working of the child, which is like inner meditation. What he is doing outwardly is compelled by inner thoughts. He is not in a hurry, as his aim is not to finish what he is doing, because no time table is planned out. He is content to live in present and do things for himself. Time has hardly any value for the child. His life is in the ever lasting present. He has the unconscious aim of perfecting himself which he has realized, but we adults cannot project ourselves in their inner life.
It requires a real effort of imagination on our part to free ourselves from our own rhythm of work when we project ourselves into his. We are always saying to those poor children, “Hurry up!” “Dear me, you are so slow!” Or worse yet, “Here let me do that for you”. It is futile to try to hustle the work of the child. The child in a sort of a secret way knows that “he cannot be twenty before he is twenty.” He cannot be hurried. As Dr. Montessori says, “He is following the timetable like the most diligent scholar in the world following it with the unshakable constancy of the stars in their courses.”
This rhythm of the child, with his own peculiar need has to be respected by the adult. The child’s interest is not getting the end of the process. His interest is in the process itself. Therefore, the child has been compared to a “Mystic” whose aim is not of any external perfection, but of self-perfection. To reach the aim of self-perfection is an end in itself for the child which nature has ordained for him.
The child is further compared as an artist. Just like the way an artist creates his own work and cannot be hurried, the child is also creating a great masterpiece-
Which is the man-to-be (an adult). Thus, for such an assignment he cannot be hurried.
We have lost all true sense of value and meaning of work, as we are not working for the sake of work. Thus there is a division of labor based on false foundation of possessiveness. Our labor force is divided into two groups, the “white collar” and the “blue collar” workers, as one works with hands and others with the brain, as if the one with hands is without the brain and the one with the brain is without hands.
The influence of the Montessori Method in the sphere of education is to unite these two elements right from the start; or better yet, to never allow them to be separated. If infants, children, and youths were trained on these practical lines at every stage of development, there would come into existence a nobler conception of work – as of something essential to the dignity of every human being.
Both the work of the child and that of the adult are subject to different laws, as their work differ in nature. The adult will use labor saving devices to gain maximum outcome for minimum effort. But to the child these laws do not apply. The child’s work is to grow, which only he can do it himself. All the help received acts as hindrance. To become a man of twenty, he must take twenty years. The child’s work springs from himself and he has no relationship between maximum result and minimum effort, as the child always puts in maximum effort. To the child there is no burden, but a vital function that he has of creating a man-to-be. Just like the heart goes on beating, he does not rest. Without this work his personality cannot be created. If the work is denied then his energy will be deviated, and thus abnormalities will be the result.
On the other hand, work is the only cure for every kind of psychic abnormality. It is not a curse or burden, but rather a joy. So we have to respect this cycle of work. We have to recognize the repetition as a meaning of achieving, which we call Psychic Maturation. First, the child creates a faculty within himself. With that faculty he creates something outside which gives him certain conscious joy.
The child’s work is not useless. In fact, it is just as, if not more important than that of the adult. Since his task is not willed and rationed like an adult, his work is instinctive. He does not create the man by meditation or rest, but by unceasing, unwearied activity, carried on year in and year out, for upwards of twenty years.
The work of an adult has special social value; amongst them the worker needs his workshop with better working conditions. For example, the blacksmith his forge, the carpenter his bench, the business man his office, and so forth. Adults realize the importance of having such a specially prepared environment where work can go forward under the best conditions – no time wasted, and all the necessary means at hand. For the child it is equally important that he should have a place dedicated to his work. But since the child’s work is not yet generally known and appreciated, not many people bother about preparing such s special place for it. Fewer still know how to set about doing it.
The building up of each man – the child who was, is responsible. The adult who was responsible for that child is even more responsible for the out come. The adult has to provide the environment.