The Montessori philosophy places great importance on respecting children and fostering their independence. A key aspect of this approach is finding a balance between freedom and limits: children are encouraged to make their own choices within limits set by adult to ensure their safety or according to the schedule for the day. In a Montessori classroom, children are encouraged to move freely and choose their own work, but they receive guidance from the Montessori educators who provide gentle direction and support within a structured environment. In this blog article, we will explore how to implement Montessori at home and help build children’s confidence through the Montessori approach to discipline.
The Montessori method views learning as inherently rewarding. Instead of resorting to threats, punishment, bribes, or rewards, the Montessori approach aims to cultivate intrinsic motivation. External motivators may redirect behaviour momentarily, but they do not help children develop a genuine sense of responsibility and self-discipline. Instead, when a child is having big feelings or engaging in something unsafe, it is important to validate their emotions and guide them towards alternative ways of expressing them. For instance, if a child is feeling angry and has the urge to hit something, you could redirect their behaviour by saying, “Hitting hurts. If you feel angry and need to hit something, you can hit this cushion.” This approach empowers children to explore healthy ways of releasing emotions, fostering the development of their self-regulation skills.
Similarly, the Montessori method of education reinforces positive behaviour by using encouraging statements. For example, you could say, “Thank you for using your gentle hands with the baby. Your brother seemed to enjoy your company.”, or “This puzzle was difficult, but look at you! You did it! You must be feeling so proud of yourself!”. Encouraging statements nurture intrinsic motivation by acknowledging the child’s efforts and achievements and highlighting the accompanying feelings of satisfaction and pride.
Helping children understand the consequences of their actions is an essential aspect of discipline. The Montessori approach encourages the use of If-Then statements to establish clear connections between actions and outcomes. For example, an If-Then statement could be, “If you don’t pack away your toys, then you might not be able to find them easily next time you want to play”. If they choose not to wear a jacket to go outside, then they might feel cold. By using If-Then statements, children can understand the direct relationship between their actions or decisions and the related consequences, promoting responsibility and thoughtful decision-making.
Respect for children is at the core of the Montessori approach to discipline. By using clear and kind limits, adults provide children with a sense of structure and guidance respecting the uniqueness of every child, their freedom to choose, to move, to correct their own mistakes, and to work at their own pace. Instead of using authoritarian language, Montessori educators and parents focus on establishing open lines of communication and setting expectations through respectful dialogue. It is also important for adults to model apologising and repairing mistakes when required, demonstrating to children the importance of taking responsibility for their actions. By fostering a respectful, nurturing, and supportive environment, adults can create a space where discipline becomes an opportunity for growth, rather than a source of conflict.
Read our blog article on 10 ways to show your child respect for practical tips.
Practising Problem-solving Together
Practising problem-solving is a valuable skill that children can develop both in Montessori classrooms and at home. By actively involving children in finding solutions to the challenges they encounter, we create opportunities for them to develop their problem-solving abilities. Instead of assigning blame or engaging in conflicts, the focus shifts towards collaborative problem-solving, where children learn that we can work together to find solutions. This helps children develop essential skills like critical thinking, empathy, and negotiation but also empowers them to take ownership of their actions. Through engaging in collaborative problem-solving, children not only acquire a valuable skill set, but also develop a sense of teamwork and cultivate a solution-oriented mindset.
Age-appropriate Responsibilities and Choices
Empowering children with age-appropriate responsibilities and choices is a valuable strategy for nurturing their independence and promoting accountability and personal growth. To begin, offer simple choices that allow your child to experience a sense of control without feeling overwhelmed, such as asking them to choose between their blue or white t-shirt for the day. As their confidence grows, gradually introduce more options, or offer them bigger decisions to make, such as choosing a family activity for the weekend or deciding on a new piece of furniture for their room.
By actively involving children in the decision-making process and assigning them specific responsibilities, we can help them understand the impact of their actions and give them a sense of purpose. For example, when children are entrusted with setting the table, they learn the importance of participation in the community and develop a sense of belonging. This fosters a harmonious environment where everyone values their role and appreciates the contributions of others, nurturing a culture of mutual respect and collaboration.
Implementing a Montessori approach to discipline requires patience and consistency. By fostering intrinsic motivation, understanding consequences, promoting respectful communication, and encouraging problem-solving skills, we empower children to become responsible individuals. The Montessori philosophy guides children towards independence, self-discipline, and personal growth.