A Look at Discipline the Montessori Way

At Brushy Creek, our dedicated educators stay calm and non-reactive when communicating a learning opportunity with students

The Guidepost Team

Young children are learning how they fit into the world. They are learning what they are capable of and pushing the boundaries to see what all is possible. In this learning trajectory, children will be rough with each other at times, like trying to take a classroom material from a fellow student, but this is not an attempt to be malicious.

At Guidepost Montessori at Brushy Creek, our private preschool and elementary teachers are here to teach children how they fit into the world and society's expectations. We do not want children to think they are wrong or tell them they are in trouble when they do not yet know which actions are appropriate. They are learning, and it is our job to explain to them how the world works. Children are not inherently naughty, they are testing their limits and constantly learning what is acceptable and what is not.

To raise our voice in an attempt to divert an argument between two students would only alert their defense mechanisms. They would no longer be susceptible to understanding the problem, because they only hear our frustration instead.

How do we discipline at Brushy Creek? As practicing Montessorians, we stay calm and non-reactive. Children want adults to react, not always disassociating negative and positive reactions. But when we stay calm and get down to the child's level, we can explain how to correctly use our bodies. If a child is biting, we remind the child that teeth are for chewing our food. If a child is acting aggressively, we remind them that hands are for drawing, carrying and holding hands. And if a child scratches, we help him to see how his hands caused pain and sadness to a fellow classmate.

We want children to know they are in control of their body, and it is not used for harm to others. We will not give a child a time-out or scold them with humiliation. We want to remain neutral in an elevated time of aggression so the child does not feel the desire to do the harmful act again. We explain why aggression is not courteous to our friends, and then we move on by redirecting them to a new choice of work.

As children get older, they may perform an unkind act or say unkind words they have already learned is not okay. In these instances, we want to ask the child questions about why they said what they said or why they hit their friend, for example. But if we can be open to listening and truly hearing what the child has to say, we will learn why they are upset, and we will give them the space to hold their own selves accountable.

We believe that children innately want to be kind, respectful, and courteous. If a child is acting out, there is a reason and a root cause — often because they do not yet have the skills to communicate properly or fully. Therefore, it is our job as educators to give the child a safe place where we teach and model kind behavior. Jumping to the conclusion that a child knew better does not help him to understand what is expected of him as he grows older.

At Brushy Creek, we will always work with the child to see what is truly going on and help him to understand the repercussions of his actions. It is the best way, in our opinion, to create lifelong respectfulness and kindness to others around you.

Meet the Author

The Guidepost Team

The Guidepost Team is a group of writers and educators dedicated to helping demystify all things Montessori.

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