I understand that the Montessori Approach does not advocate the age old method of ‘rocking’ a child to sleep. Where does this thought originate from and what alternatives should be used?
From the moment a child is born, he is able to fall asleep and awake by himself. Naturally, it takes time for him to get accustomed to the hours of night and day because he has not experienced night and day in the womb. The secret is to allow the child to be awake when it is light and asleep when it is dark - so don’t be tempted to darken the room during the day to imitate night and induce sleep unnaturally. With patience, he will develop his own cycle and he will start to follow the rhythm of sunset and sunrise before long. Employing a low bed will allow him to crawl into bed when he is tired, and crawl out, when he is refreshed from his sleep. He is soon then able to regulate his own sleep pattern. The capabilities of the child under three are often underestimated. However if the environment is carefully prepared and the incredible power nature has given him is respected, the flourishing of his potentialities will be witnessed.
The idea originates from Montessori’s writings on independence, ‘The child needs to do things by himself from the beginning of life, from the moment he is capable of doing things...By helping the child to do things by himself you are helping the independence of the child.’ (What You Should Know About Your Child) Rocking a child to sleep implies a dependence on the adult that really does not need to exist. What ‘alternatives’ should be used? The question assumes that the child needs our help. At times (when he is ill or out of sorts), he may need our presence or our voice; in essence, the reassurance found in closeness, but any further ‘help’ offered to the child can only be viewed as an obstacle to his natural development.