I had a very insightful tour today with a new, prospective family. One of their main concerns was “freedom” in the classrooms, and if the children are given too much independence. Of course, that led us to an in-depth discussion of the philosophy, and how our children are given the appropriate amount of freedom, within limits. It’s never a “free-for-all”, where children can run around the room, and do as they please in whatever manner they choose. Whenever a child “abuses” their freedom, or chooses not to act as a calm, productive member of the community, they then lose their freedom to walk around on their own, and must walk with the Guide. If they’re disrupting their friends’ work, or throwing objects, causing the environment to be unsafe, they once again lose their freedom to independently work on their own. Discipline for the child comes from within. They have a subconscious desire to work in a peaceful, calm, orderly environment, free from chaos and over-stimulation. Our Guides are trained to allow the child to find that inner discipline, and learn how to control their body, emotions, and actions. We don’t believe in “time out”, and certainly not physical punishment. Genuine discipline comes from within the child, and functions as a way to help promote their inner growth.
I came across this article, “the Montessori Approach to Discipline” from the Montessori Foundation, which supported my statements in every aspect. For my fellow administrators and teachers experiencing the same questions with your new families, or if you have families struggling with the concept of “discipline” in the Montessori classroom, I would encourage you pass along this article to them. Definitely a great read!
“Montessori herself held that discipline is “not …a fact but a way.” True discipline comes more from within than without and is the result of steadily developing inner growth. Just as the very young child must first learn to stand before she can walk, she must develop an inward order through work before she is able to choose and carry out her own acts. Surprisingly enough, Montessori found that it was through the very liberty inherent in her classrooms that the children were given the means to reveal their inner or self-discipline. Independence did not diminish respect for authority but rather deepened it. One of the things that aroused her greatest interest was that order and discipline seemed to be so closely united that they resulted in freedom.”