Misconception: Montessori teachers don't believe in discipline
Montessorians believe in natural and logical consequences as opposed to punishment. Conflict resolution and respect for the environment, (both physical and environmental), are also important aspects of our approach. For it is one of our ultimate goals that our students do the right thing, not because they will be punished if they don’t, but because they don’t want to adversely affect the people and world around them.
In a true Montessori environment the teaching of these concepts take years to impart through developmentally appropriate experiences and methods.
Since very young pre-school age children have problems understanding the ramifications of his behavior, we use diversion. (Diversion is when you divert the child’s attention from the thing that is causing them problems.) If diversion doesn’t work, we promptly remove the child from the problem, (unless danger is present and then we remove the child immediately).
Once the child is old enough to understand the ramifications of his behavior. We teach them to think about how they are behaving and how that behavior will affect others and the things around them. To do this the teacher tells the child that a certain behavior is not appropriate because...(it will hurt, others, break things, ...)
If the child continues the behavior. The Teacher will say, “If you continue to … (yell, throw,...), you will lose the privilege to continue with that activity, because we don’t ...(someone to get hurt, something to get broken,...)
If the child still continues the behavior. The teacher will then say, “You have lost the privilege to …. , because even though I have asked you to stop, you have not respected my wishes and the needs of your friends."
The child is then removed from the situation.
Of course, this is only in non-dangerous situations, if a child is in immediate danger, the behavior needs to be stopped immediately.
Notice that young children are not forced to say, “sorry”. That is because all too often children get the idea that “sorry” is like a “get out of jail free card”. For example:
Children are playing and Johnny hits Jose.
Johnny is told, “Say sorry!”
Johnny says, “Sorry”, and then is told that he is a good boy.
What has Johnny learned? Mainly that saying, “Sorry” gets him out of trouble. He doesn’t learn compassion or responsibility for his actions. So in Montessori schools (and many other programs) teaching a child to say that he is “sorry” is reserved for when the child really does feel badly for his actions.
An important thing about not forcing a child into saying, “sorry” is that the behavior CANNOT be allowed to continue. Just because a child may be too young to understand the consequences of his actions, does not mean that UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES they should they be allowed to continue the hurtful or destructive behavior.
After a child knows the rules, they aren’t given chances over and over again. If a child can say something along the lines of, “You’ve only given me two chances, I can’t lose the privilege until I’ve abused it three times.” The child doesn’t need any more chances, he’s just trying to get away with things he knows he is not supposed to do.
Around 6 years old, children start to become very aware of “truth and justice”. The Montessori classroom uses their desire for fairness by teaching them to think before they act and to look at the big picture. Children who, when they were younger, were told, “I won’t let you throw the materials because they will break.” Are now asked, “Why don’t we throw materials?”. In this way we help them learn to think about the ramifications of their behavior. Now natural and logical consequences are used whenever possible. IE,. Cleaning up messes they made, fixing or working to replace materials they have broken, not being able to play or work with children with whom they have been hurtful or mean, having to work during recess because they played during work time, ...
Notice that we shy away from punishment. Punishment would be alone the lines of forcing a child to write sentences or copy out of the dictionary because they didn't complete their homework, or said mean things. It is the Montessorians believe that punishment only teaches children to not do something out of fear of punishment, not out of the greater good. Additionally, using something like extra work or the dictionary as punishment makes the child associate such things as being punishment instead of the wonderful and exciting tools and activities that they actually are.
Additionally, Montessorians do not believe in rewarding appropriate behavior with stickers and stars.We believe that outside rewards such as these create external motivation that can lead to passive adults dependent on others for everything from their self-image to the permission to follow their dreams. Instead of rewards, we teach children to reflect upon their behavior and its influence on the world around them. By teaching children be proud of their accomplishments, instead of the praise and approval of others, they learn to find their rewards within themselves.
At this point in their development children are also taught “Active Listening”. Done at a “Peace Table” the adults in the classroom help the children to take turns listening, and explaining their conflict and feelings. After all sides have not only explained their take on a conflict, but have explained how the other side(s) perceives the conflict, the children are guided though solving the problem together. Besides learning to work together, children learn to look at the “big picture” before making judgments. Through this process they discover that most conflicts are do, not to the actual“meanness” of others, but to “misunderstanding”.
By about age 9, Montessori children are now taught to use all the skills and knowledge they have acquired over the years by becoming Peace Keepers for the classroom, and if appropriate, the school. In this case the children, under the guidance of an adult, learn to be mediators for their peers, helping them to voice their needs and opinions while also listening to and respecting the needs and opinions of others.