The Discipline Problem 3

How Independence helps to foster Discipline the Montessori Way

Montessori education is child-centred and relies on one crucial discovery Maria Montessori (the founder of this education system) made about the child. Children love to learn and work in their environment. Reality and not fantasy was the place for the young mind. This is true of children between the ages of 0 to 6.

So, to help the child develop discipline the Montessori system provides children with the opportunity to learn and work in an environment specially prepared to enable them to know how to do things themselves. The children are provided with the apparatus and the time to learn to be independent, step by step. This fosters independence and develops self-confidence and self-discipline.

Children learn to do the right thing by self prompts not by adults telling them what to do at every turn. Years ago parents would insist on their children behaving right even if their teacher was not always right. Today parents would sometimes take the side of their child even when the teacher is right. Always the extreme. This is not necessary if the child is self-disciplined. They will know now when they are wrong and take responsibility.

How does this happen?

  1. Provide simple tasks for the child to learn, e.g. washing plates, washing a chair or table, folding a mat or clothes, arranging flowers, polishing the furniture, etc.
  2. The self-correcting materials and work they do in the Montessori classroom are also very helpful.
  3. Allow the children to repeat exercises and activities as they desire. Remember practice makes progress.

How does progress occur?

The activities above will enable the child to learn how to concentrate and think clearly as they need to follow a process and order, this is the route to self-discipline. A disciplined child has a disciplined mind. This is how to discipline the mind. Active work helps to foster discipline.

Then you need to be intentional.

What do you teach the child? One of the content areas within the Practical Life Exercises (a core Montessori Nursery Subject area) is Grace and Courtesy which enables the child to learn the expected ways of behaviour. Over time the child can make an informed decision on what is right and what is wrong.

Teach your child the way to go and he will not depart from it. A lot of adults use this verse from the Bible to defend the shouting, beating and hitting of the erring child, but the point is to teach, not beat!

Be prepared to teach the child what to do in different situations:

How to greet others,

How to carry a chair.

How to eat properly.

How to offer drinks and snacks to a visitor.

How to answer the telephone.

How to set the table.

How to offer help to a person in need.

How to say sorry.

The list goes on. A lot of this will also rely on you being a great role model regarding what you are teaching.

The children are watching us. It is of no use teaching them the right thing to do and we are doing the exact opposite! If that is the case then what we are doing is simply wasting our time.

We as adults must take responsibility for discipline in our communities, we do this by setting limits, by being firm but not unkind. Ensure that children are not going to be of any harm to themselves, others or the property around them.

It is essential that we allow them ample space to concentrate, meaning we do not disrupt them while working unnecessarily. Do not turn your back on the class, make sure you can see what they are doing. It is crucial to know when to intervene and correct misbehaviour. If the class is unruly and disorganised it is important to be firm and stop all unproductive behaviour.

Children need adults to lead the way and take control. Being kind does not mean letting go of the right way of behaving, it does not allow for chaos and permissiveness. Children require boundaries, boundaries are healthy, use them and they will blossom into well-behaved and disciplined children.

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