Repetition and Patience

“When the child has come to understand something it is not the end, but only the beginning. For now there comes the ‘second stage’ … the more important one, when the child goes on repeating the same exercise again and again for sheer love of it. When I have just been introduced to a person and I find him interesting and attractive, that is not the moment when I turn my back on him and go away!! Rather it is just then that I have the wish to stay in his company and enjoy it.”
-Maria Montessori

At times adults find repetition soothing and comforting but we sometimes complain about doing the same thing over and over again. For children, repetition is so often welcome. In the prepared environment think of repetition as an avenue toward mastery (of self or task) – repetition as worthwhile and rewarding in and of itself, at times tedious but more often joyous.

Repetition is centering. Repetition leads to concentration and real learning.

So when your child tells you that they did the pink tower (again!) or brings home their 400th metal inset, rest assured, it’s all the right things. They are mastering what they need to master. Movement to the next great task will come.

A few notes on repetition at home…

Very young children will crawl into the kitchen and incessantly open and close the same cabinet. It’s not a cry for attention; it’s not a need for anything other than to master this skill, to build their muscles, to learn about their environment. From the beginning humans repeat in order to learn.

At home we often shy away from allowing our children to repeat, especially those tasks that are arduous – the ones they have yet mastered, the ones that require massive clean up. Why let your child bake when they have not yet mastered it? In classic Montessori fashion we ask that you flip this on its head. If your child is struggling with something, this is the very thing you need to offer opportunities for them to practice – to repeat. Here we ask for  patience on behalf of your children. As adults who have mastered many life skills, it can be difficult to hold space for children who are doing the work of mastery. Sitting on your hands and letting them try (again) to pour, to put on their socks, to follow a recipe… can require a lot of patience. Give them this patience. Give them the time and the moments free of judgement to repeat that which they are trying to master.

The resplendent photographs are compliments of Melinda Smith.