Often times, in a Montessori learning environment, it can be confusing for a child to move between two sets of expectations, such as punishment at home vs. consequences at school, or praise at home vs. acknowledgement at school. However, when the expectations at school and at home are similar, the children meet and surpass them with less effort and more enjoyment. The best Montessori teachers or understand that maintaining this delicate balance can be challenging and rewarding. It is on that foundation of freedom and structure that the child builds discipline. In this post, we’ll provide tips on how parents can promote self-guidance and self-discipline in their children.
Montessori herself held that discipline is “not…a fact but a way.” True discipline comes more from within than without and is the result of steadily developed inner growth. A child must develop an inward direction through work before she is able to choose and carry out her own acts. Montessori found that it was through the very freedom inherent in her classroom that the children were given the resources to reveal their inner self-discipline. Independence didn’t reduce respect for authority but rather expanded it. One of the things that sparked Maria Montessori’s greatest interest was that order and discipline seemed to be so closely tied, that they resulted in freedom.
Discipline in a Montessori environment is not something that is done to the child, or a method for controlling behavior, but rather, a development of the internal locus of control. This internal locus of control allows an individual to choose the correct behavior because it’s right for him or herself and the community.
Furthermore, discipline presumes a certain degree of obedience. Maria Montessori spoke of three levels of obedience. In the first level, before the age of three, a child is unable to obey unless what is asked of them corresponds with one of their vital urges. The second level of obedience is reached when the child is capable of understanding another person’s wishes and can act them out in their own behavior. The third level of obedience, Montessori referred to as the “joyful obedience.” In this stage, the child has internalized obedience and has developed self-discipline. This is where they clearly see the value of what is being provided to them by authority and wishes to obey. With this level of obedience or self-discipline comes a degree of self-respect, where a child can’t help but respect the rights and needs of others along with their own.
Parents can foster this type of discipline with a democratic parenting style, rather than an authoritative one. Parents are familiar with the typical methodology of being obedient, “or else,” as discipline was enforced from without rather than permitted to grow from within. To be consistent with the “discipline” used in a Montessori classroom, parenting styles at home should emphasize respect for the child’s feelings, choices within acceptable limits, encouragement, conflict resolution, and natural and logical consequences for behavior, rather than the typical techniques of threats, bribes, or withdrawal of privileges.
Every adult who cares for a child has a responsibility to guide, correct, and socialize them toward appropriate behaviors. Positive guidance and discipline are crucial because they promote children’s self-control, teach children responsibility, and help them make thoughtful choices. The more effective parents are at inspiring proper child behavior, the less time and effort an adult will spend correcting the child’s misbehavior.
Teaching children self-discipline is a demanding task and requires patience, attention, cooperation, and a good understanding of the child.
Below are some positive discipline techniques to help prevent misbehavior:
• Set clear, consistent rules.
• Show interest in the child’s activities.
• Encourage self-control by providing meaningful choices.
• Build children’s images of themselves as trustworthy, responsible and cooperative.
• Focus on the desired behavior rather than the one to be avoided.
• Note and pay attention to children when they do things right.
• Set a good example.
• Help children see how their actions affect others.