Freedom, limits & discipline.
When you first look into Montessori, you are likely to come across two very common and wrong descriptions of freedom and discipline.
One is that the children are free to do as they wish, without any guidance or support from the adult. That the adult is not involved and the child does not have any discipline or limits in place within their Montessori home or classroom.
The other is the total opposite! That the children are forced to wash dishes, do laundry and do grown up tasks. They have no choice and are not allowed to freely explore and that Montessori is too strict and the children are miserable.
The reality being somewhere in the middle.
Children in Montessori environments do have great freedoms, they can choose their clothes, when to snack, what to do, when to do it, they are given independence and it is a child led way of learning. However, there are limits to this freedom that are set by the adult.
For example, yes they can choose their own clothing, that is a freedom. The limit is that the adult decides which weather appropriate clothes they get the choice of in the first place.
It is the same with most if not all aspects of Montessori. The children are given the freedom to lead the way in their development and are given the opportunity for great independence. But there is limits set by the adult also. The limits are usually set for reasons of safety, respect and necessity.
Like with the clothes example, it is safety. It would not be safe for a child to go out into the snow in summer clothing. On the other hand it is also respectful to let them choose their own clothing. In order for them to have this freedom, the limit must be set to ensure safety and independence.
Now when we talk about discipline, we think time out, punishments and forced apologies. But in a Montessori environment discipline is very different.
First we need to go back to the origin of the word discipline, it comes from the latin "Disciplina" which means to learn or to teach.
So when we think about discipline, we shouldn't think about punishments and time outs, we should think about how do we TEACH the skills needed to avoid this behaviour.
For example, in Montessori environments children are given real breakable materials like glass and china. If your child ended up breaking a glass, accidentally or purposefully, how would you react?
Some might react with putting the child in time out, shouting, or maybe removing the "priveledge" of breakable glassware. This would be a punishment, not discipline.
In Montessori the reaction would be simply to encourage the child to clean up the broken glass, with your supervision. Then you observe. Why did the glass break? How did the glass break? For example say the child was putting it in the sink and instead of doing it gently, they threw it.
The discipline that would be used here would be showing the child how to put glasses in the sink gently without breaking them, then allowing the child to practise the skill as long as necessary. It could just be in the moment, or as a group grace and courtesy lesson.
Now, from the child who was shouted at and put in time out, compared to the child who was helped to fix the mistake by making a mess and then shown the correct way to do it. Who would you say was disciplined respectfully and was given the skill to not do it again?
The second one right?
In order to truly respect the child, give effective limits and discipline to teach. We must practice, observe the child, the environment and ourselves and then implement it.
At the forefront of all interactions within a Montessori environment is respect. We must respect the child enough to give them the freedom to make their own choices, We must be respectful of his self and his independence by setting the right limits. We must also respect that they are learning and are gaining skills rapidly and be respectful in the way we discipline.
For some key examples of freedoms in Montessori, and the limits implemented for those freedoms, you can check out my recent Instagram post here.
And if you're wanting to delve a little deeper into respectful parenting and gentle discipline, I've linked some of my favourite books at the bottom of this post. They have been so helpful for me and others that I know in giving solid theory and realistic examples.
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I believe Montessori is for everybody, I want to help everyone bring a little more Montessori into their homes and lives.
Montessoraus mama. x