Children are a wonderful blessing entrusted to parents, teachers, guardians and the society to cherish. Raising a child is a wonderful role replete with joy and challenges in equal measure. A child needs disciplining from time to time.
Parents around the world employ different ways of disciplining their children. The approach taken usually depends on the parents’ upbringing, culture and religious beliefs as well as personal opinion on the issue.
Parents who want to learn new ways of disciplining children should apply the Montessori approach.
What does the Montessori approach entail?
Generally, it entails finding the balance between discipline and freedom. It revolves around the understanding that children need their freedom. That freedom should not be curtailed simply because a parent or teacher wants the young one to grow up disciplined.
Finding that balance – and maintaining it – can be the real challenge. The approach borrows heavily from Maria Montessori’s philosophy. She believed that adults should treat children the way they would like to be treated. She advocated treating children respectfully.
Parents have to respect children if this approach is to produce the desired results.
Adults should discipline their children using this approach consistently. Do not be afraid of repeating yourself. Here, repetition is the key. Exercise patience instead of jumping out of your skin if you see no change in your child’s behaviour.
It takes time for some of these lessons to stick to the children’ minds.
It's in the planning
Prepare the environment
The Montessori approach encourages parents to focus on creating the sort of environment that enables children to learn to behave properly. Adults cannot leave this to chance. They must proactively design their children’s environment.
Freedom is crucial in a child’s life. Therefore, adults have to find ways of allowing children as much freedom as they need to experiment and make mistakes. This would only be possible in the right environment though.
Giving children the freedom to experiment and make mistakes teaches them many lessons too.
Teach children the importance of doing important chores. For example, train them to clean the spaces they use. Let them know that you expect them to clean any mess they leave behind. Buy a few child accessible rags and supplies the children need to do their part.
Model appropriate behaviour in the environment
Children learn a lot from the adults around them. For this reason, learn to model good behaviour. Let the little ones see you doing what you always advise them to do. Let them see you behaving well within the environment you created.
Let them see you cleaning up any mess you create.
Allow them to clean their mess too. Start teaching them responsibility early. Children are more likely to behave properly when they are trained to be responsible from an early age. Do not wait until they are in their teens to embark on these lessons.
We believe that every action has a reaction; it is a contrast that lets the child learn and understand resiliency.
Children learn from their mistakes and it is okay for them to start all over again when something doesn’t work. Their exercise of inappropriate behaviour and learning its consequences is what helps them understand how to go further and to be able to recognize and choose differently the next time.
Even with all the work – know that there will still be mistakes
But does that mean the Montessori approach guarantees disciplined children? No. You will still have children making inappropriate choices. The difference here is they will be learning respect. They will see you treating them respectfully hence likely to treat others the same way.
At the end of the day, you will have to judge the situation yourself.
The question comes – should we as parents or guardians raise voices at our children? Remembering that the Montessori approach advocates treating children the way you want to be treated – the philosophy and methods advocate against such tactics.
Instead, we recommend that it is better to use the curiosity within the child to inspire appropriate behaviour. That also allows you an opportunity to gain control over the situation. Bring out an issue that’s likely to raise the child’s curiosity. This way, the young one will stop focusing on and displaying inappropriate behaviour.
Ultimately, you have to distract the child while helping them refocus on the most important lessons, values, tasks or work. Once again, like was the case with increasing curiosity, the goal is to help the little ones to focus on what is more important rather than their inappropriate behaviour. This can be done by bringing out a simple new activity that you know that they are fond of. Or singing their favourite song or reading their book out loud. Again, this takes more work than simply yelling at the child, but it allows for far better results on the behaviour and development of the child over the long-term.
Related article: Montessori Activities For Toddlers At Home
Separating the child from the group or activity until nerves become calm again
There are times when nothing may work, and the child may truly be unhappy and be modelling really negative behaviour. In such situations, our approach to helping children “reset” also requires separating the child from a specific group or activity that has brought about the negative behavior. This approach may be appropriate depending on the situation.
Allow children to return to the group or activity once their nerves are calm.
Additionally, consider reconnecting these young minds with purposeful work. What this achieves is to allow the children an opportunity to make good social decisions on their own, especially if they started displaying negative behavior while in the company of their friends.
The Montessori approach recommends taking time to speak with your little ones too. Talk with each child individually. Teach them about actions and consequences. Help them understand the consequences of their actions. Let them understand that good behaviour is capable of leading to something equally good.
It is good to let children know the positive outcomes that await them down the line every time they act. Give them freedom to make their own decisions, and reward them with something they love doing. For example, assure them of a trip to the local park happens if we make time for it. Talk to them about the consequences of the decisions if they work with you to finish whatever you have planned now. An example would be finishing dinner and putting dishes away, so time can be made to go to the park before it gets dark.
Let them know they have a choice on any issue you assign them. It empowers them. It helps them feel like they are contributing and have some control – which does wonders for their development. However, there is a reward for choosing to behave well and consequences for falling short. Allow them to understand these rewards and consequences respectfully so they understand their roles in all of these.
It goes without saying but we need to communicate with them without yelling, screaming, and shouting, nagging or doing the things that would often get under your skin if somebody else were to do them to us. It takes time to learn these lessons but they will make you better at disciplining your children.
The Montessori approach makes the child feel like their actions are helping others (and themselves) towards something bigger. It allows them to focus in the present, contribute and stay calm. Ultimately, making them into self-directed individuals that behave nicely and do not require ‘discipline’.
This approach helps in raising children who are independent and free, but within boundaries.
They understand the boundaries. They appreciate that going over those boundaries would mean being denied some of the privileges or activities they are accustomed to in their lives. To a doubting eye, this approach can appear excessively free or chaotic. However, our whole philosophy at Kaban is based on using such approaches to help raise and care for children at our school. We fundamentally believe children should not be mistreated and allowed an environment that gives them the freedom to struggle and grow at their own individual pace to reach their potential.
The Montessori approach recommends a different way of disciplining children. You may have to forget some of the approaches you have learned and used throughout your life. Be ready to embrace a new way of doing things.
The rewards go beyond raising well-behaved children. It teaches children to think through their actions and decisions before proceeding. They learn to start examining their behaviours early thus increasing the likelihood of growing into responsible, mature adults.
The Montessori approach uses the “freedom with limits” philosophy.
Under the Montessori philosophy of education, true disciple starts from within. Here, the philosophy presupposes that discipline is the result of developing inner growth steadily over a certain period.
Under Montessori, discipline is not something you do to a child. It’s also not something or technique that you use to control a child’s behaviour. The goal here is to help a child understand self-control and discipline enough to display it without feeling pressured to do so.