Montessori Discipline Tactics

Hand of a parent holding a sand timer in front of a little girl while she is on timeout

As a Montessori school, we want the best for your child, and we do that by working to develop their interest and providing them with choice. We believe that the best way for your child to learn and grow is to emphasize their independence and their ability to make their own conscious decisions. We want to nurture children’s natural curiosity for the world and their environment, by fostering an environment where they feel secure in their own being.

In terms of discipline, Montessori schools have a slightly different approach from more traditional types of schooling. A common misconception about Montessori education is that the focus on independence means children can do whatever they want, but that is certainly not the case. Children should be given the opportunity to explore, but Montessori discipline focuses more on shaping and encouraging positive behavior, rather than punishing bad behavior.

Positive Discipline

At its core, Montessori schools focus on positive discipline, which is the idea that we can teach children about self-discipline and self-modulation, without punishing bad behavior. We want children to understand why their behavior is wrong, without punishing them. This mentality is a shift from traditional schooling and thinking, where kids are put in time-out or get their favorite toy taken away from them.

Positive discipline focuses on motivating and encouraging children to understand the consequences of their behavior and the alternative routes to bad behavior. The main principle is that children are independent social beings that have their own desires, wants, and motivations. We want to understand exactly why a child made a decision to act in a certain way, and we want to encourage them to think of other ways that they could act or react. We want to create opportunities for children to change their behaviors and reactions in the future, so we can prevent bad behavior in the future.

Understanding Why Children Behave The Way They Do

There is no such thing as “bad children”, but just children whose behaviors are not socially acceptable. We strongly believe in this mentality. The children who are normally labeled as “bad” are often dealing with something personal at home, are struggling to fit in with their classmates, or are not understanding something happening in the classroom. Montessori discipline focuses on not punishing these not-socially-accepted behaviors, but instead focusing on understanding the root cause of “bad” behavior in children.

All children want to belong, and oftentimes, they act out in an effort to create belonging or to attract attention. By providing these children with warmth, empathy, and kindness, we can redirect thoughts and behaviors to create a more welcoming and understanding environment for children.

Collaboration and Communication

Going hand-in-hand with understanding children as autonomous beings, we want to collaborate with children and what they need. Instead of shaping behavior through punishments, we work directly with children to get them to make good choices. We work with children early to prevent the opportunity to potentially discipline them. If we work collaboratively with children earlier, then we can foster skills that will enable them to be successful children.

An extension of collaboration is communication, where we genuinely listen and empathize with our students. We want them to know that their thoughts and values are important. Traditional schooling does not emphasize this level of communication directly with students, as there is less emphasis on children being autonomous beings with their own thoughts and reactions. If children learn that their thoughts and opinions are valued and important, they will feel more respected and listen to the teacher (or other trusted adult) more. If we start to ignore and placate children, they will start to ignore and disrespect us. Traditional schooling forgets that respect is a two-way street.

We ensure that our communication is clear, with little room for interpretation. This is the type of behavior we want to model for them, so they learn, but it also demonstrates that clear communication is important to getting what you want. Clear communication also leads to increase trust, since there is limited miscommunication and misunderstandings.

Modeling How to Make Amends

While we do not focus on punishing children as discipline, we do want children to understand the consequences of their actions and make amends. The best way to do that is through modeling. We know that children pick up behaviors from the people around them, as we saw with the infamous Bandura Bobo doll study, so if we want children to make apologies, we have to be able to make them, as well. We want our students to internalize the concept of responsibility and taking responsibility for their actions and behaviors.

It seems easy to just tell children to apologize if they make a mistake. But that’s a lot easier said than done. The best way to teach children the importance of apologizing is to model it for them. So, when we are in the classroom and we make a mistake, we immediately apologize. We want to show that making a mistake is not a big deal, as long as we own up to our actions. It may seem like making amends is not really discipline, but it is. It goes back to teaching children about the consequences of their actions, in an effort to prevent them from doing a certain action or behavior later.

Freedom

The Montessori method focuses on independence and choice, which goes hand-in-hand with freedom. There is a common misconception that freedom equates permissiveness, but that is hardly the case. Freedom comes with established, clear, and wide boundaries, for children to explore to their heart’s content, but still within limited constraints to promote safety and learning. We want children to feel safe making choices, and we do not want to punish them for doing what we told them to do. We want our students to understand informed choice, which is where they are fully informed of the consequences and boundaries of what is acceptable, and they are allowed to be themselves within that structure.

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