While discipline is often associated with punishment, Montessori takes a different approach. Dr Maria Montessori believed that discipline is more of a way and less of a fact. This simply means that it is fostered through awareness and inner discipline. While the knee-jerk reaction to your child breaking a glass may be to punish them, Montessori’s approach to discipline states that a child needs to learn that specific actions have natural consequences.
Providing your child with the freedom to learn on their own is a major cornerstone within Montessori. However, creating the perfect balance between freedom and discipline is not easy. The key is to help them understand that freedom of choice can have consequences too.
Here are a few Montessori-based tips to help you out when it comes to striking the perfect balance:
Use clear, concise and respectful language when setting expectations for your little one. This will allow them to have a better understanding of which behaviours are acceptable. For example, a Montessori teacher might say: “If you want to go and play outside, you must put on your jackets and line up.” Children thrive on structure, so they will respond better when you repeatedly provide them with clear information that explains the how and why.
Help Them Understand the Consequences
Freedom is at the heart of the Montessori method. Therefore, a great way to instil a sense of independence while practising discipline is by offering them the space to think about the consequences of their chosen actions. “If you go to bed late tonight, how will you feel in the morning?” “Will you be tired at school?” Asking your child questions that gives them the space to think about the consequences develops their critical thinking and allows them to make decisions for themselves.
No Punishment or Bribes
While you may want to give your child a cookie or two for being well-behaved, this may be to their detriment as it teaches them to look elsewhere for prompts on discipline instead of cultivating it for themselves. If you’re always bribing and punishing your child for doing or not doing something, you’re not providing them with the freedom to regulate their emotions and responses.
Validate Their Emotions
Sometimes your little one won’t understand why they can do certain things and not others. Why am I allowed a cookie at lunchtime but not before bed? Acknowledging your child’s emotions and letting them know it’s okay to be frustrated is vital. Give them time to experience their disappointment and save the resolution discussion for when the initial emotions have passed.
When you provide your child with clear expectations, support and validate their desires, you create the space for them to forge their own path and develop a sense of independence and inner discipline. It takes repetition, patience and emotional control on your part as a parent, but watching your child forge their own unique path towards independence and authenticity makes it all worth it.