“To know how to suggest is the great art of teaching.”  —Henri Frédéric Amiel

As parents, it is difficult to see our children struggle.  Whether our child is having trouble tying his shoes or having difficulty with his homework, we want to jump in and help our child solve his problems.  With the stress of life, parents find it easier to give directions or solve children’s problem, rather than allow children to solve the problems on their own.  Over one hundred years ago, Italian educator Maria Montessori discovered that children are indeed capable of teaching themselves how to do an activity.  As parents, it is our responsibility to wait and see what our child is doing and not jump in to help our children straight away.  By waiting and observing the child, we provide the child the opportunity to see what she can teach herself, while also providing  just enough support to gently guide the child. Instead of solving our children’s problems, we can help our children come to their own solutions with the process of scaffolding.

Scaffolding has been defined by Wood, Bruner, and Ross (1976) as an “adult controlling those elements of the task that are essentially beyond the learner’s capacity, thus permitting him to concentrate upon and complete only those elements that are within his range of competence.”   By scaffolding, an adult gently guides the child’s learning, responds to the child’s participation by asking questions, making observations, and giving new tasks according to the child’s responses. 

Ways to help your child with a problem by using the technique of scaffolding:

Wait until your child needs help.  Don’t jump in and help your child straight away:  Scaffolding involves waiting to help your child when she has a problem.  Instead of jumping in to solve the problem, you wait to allow the child to solve the problem on their own.  For example, your child might take a long time to tie her shoes.  However, it is important to be patient and let her try.  When the child asks for help or gives a look, then the parent can help.  Try to observe exactly what your child is struggling with.   

When you do provide help, help the child where absolutely essential.  Maybe your child is having trouble with one particular piece in a puzzle.  So, you could only help with that one piece, and let your child attempt to do the remainder of the puzzle.

Ask children to explain the steps in an activity. Ask them “What is it you need to do? What have you already tried?”  The goal in asking questions is to ultimately lead your child to her own answers.

Praise your child for trying the task, not just successfully completing the task.  Be sure to encourage the child for completing each step of an activity.  Even if the child does not complete the task, praise the child for trying.

Remember the ultimate goal for scaffolding is that the child can complete the task on her own.  As children’s abilities develop, they gradually become more independent in their learning and parents and can start to reduce scaffolding.