The Montessori Approach to Behavior Management
Unlike traditional approaches to classroom management and discipline, the Montessori school approach uses thoughtful guidelines to instruct children’s behavior in the classroom and encourage students to make good choices. At Brooksfield School, we work to provide a safe environment for children to express themselves creatively and engage with a dynamic and challenging academic. We incorporate creative and nature-oriented approaches to education that allow for children to reach their full potentials for learning, discovery, and joy. Our approach to behavior management mirrors our philosophy for education.
In conventional classroom environments, discipline comes from an external authority—usually, a teacher or parent. Our society expects children to respond with obedience to authority figures, and is often motivated with negative emotions, like fear or shame. In contrast, the Montessori perspective engages the best in children: their deep inner desire to grow, learn, and understand the world. The Montessori perspective allows children to be self-motivated, developing trust in themselves to make good decisions and listen and respond to wisdom from the parents and teachers in their lives. This approach allows children to develop and become independent adults.
Our teachers use thoughtful guidelines to encourage good behavior in the classroom using many tools. Some of these tools include using a positive reinforcement system, setting clear expectations and rules, maintaining consistent routines, and providing choices for students. Our classrooms are set up to accommodate children’s growth, learning, and self-direction. Below, we’ve outlined some of the ways that teachers at the Brooksfield School manage children’s behavior in the classroom, so that you can get a sense of our approach to education.
Using a Positive Reinforcement System
We believe that children are incredibly creative and thoughtful, and that their ideas are worthy of praise. Rather than teaching children what not to do, using negative reinforcement to motivate good behavior, we use positive reinforcement to encourage behaviors children are already exhibiting.
The Montessori model uses a specific type of positive reinforcement language to encourage good behavior. Telling children “good job” is important, but it’s important to not only reward completion of tasks. This can create insecurities in children when they don’t complete a task or are unable to. Instead, the Montessori model uses “descriptive praise” to encourage good behaviors and accomplishments outside of task completion. For example, we praise the effort a child has taken to complete a task, rather than the fulfillment of that goal.
Descriptive praise can be as simple as using different words to praise a child. Rather than saying “good job,” when a child shows us a painting that they’ve created, we might instead say “that’s really creative! It looks like you put a lot of hard work into that.” This type of language celebrates a child’s creativity, thoughtfulness, and hard work, rather than on their ability to simple finish a task. It encourages self-motivation, too.
Setting Clear Expectations and Rules
The Montessori model encourages children to make choices, and encourages teachers to follow the lead of children’s imaginative thinking and diverse interests. However, it’s still important to set expectations, rules, and limitations that provide for children’s safety. In order to do this, teachers and leaders set clear, achievable expectations that provide guideposts for children to stay safe.
Rather than overloading children with rules they must follow, the Montessori model encourages us to set minimal, achievable goals and rules. Therefore, we lead our children with the most important rules, and keep them clear and concise for children to understand. For example: “When you’re done playing, clean up your toys,” and “Use your words, not your hands, to express yourself.” These are important rules that help kids stay safe, but also give them space to express themselves fully and follow their interests in the classroom.
Maintaining Consistent Routines
Consistency in routines are important for children, who generally understand the world through patterns. Clear, consistent routines and patterns create safety and secure attachment for children, and also give kids space to be creativity within clear boundaries that limit frustrations. Routines help children predict what will happen next, which creates independence for children to know what to expect and how to behave accordingly.
Routines also limit frustrations that children struggle with, like losing objects. Clear routines around putting things away or when to expect lunch or naptime helps students keep their lunchboxes in the appropriate location and limits frustration about losing things.
Basing routines around daily activities, like arriving to school, lunchtime, bathroom, or naptime can create consistency and help children learn what comes next more easily. For example, teaching students routines around lunchtime, like washing hands, will give students the independence to do these tasks themselves, without guidance.
Freedom and choice are a key tenet of the Montessori model. Children’s development – emotionally, socially, and academically – improves when they are empowered to make choices. Giving children choices encourages them to be confident and to develop into their interests and strengths. Giving choices also provides educators with the opportunity to create healthy boundaries for kids. Providing two options provides for safety while still encouraging confidence and self-motivation.
Choices are also an important of meeting children’s development where it is. For example, while a 4th grader might be able to choose their breakfast from the items in the pantry appropriately and healthily, a 1st grader might not be able to make a good, healthy choice from such a wide array of options.
nstead, giving a child a choice between cereal and eggs gives them the ability to learn what the appropriate choices for breakfast are.
Teachers and educators can also model choice for children by verbalizing their thought process when making decisions. This can teach children the importance of being thoughtful when making choices and asking for help when they need them. This encourages them to be thoughtful choice-makers in the world.
Montessori behavior management encourages to grow and develop safely as humans and learners. Rather than doubt children’s abilities, we use tools to bring out the best in children, allowing them to follow their desires to learn and understand the world around them. We encourage them to trust themselves and make good decisions for themselves and the people around them. The tools we’ve shared are helpful in the classroom, but they can also be used at home to encourage children’s behavior and prepare them for a classroom environment. Happy learning!