At Montessori By Mom, we have a true passion to make Montessori materials accessible to all. We strive to bring quality lessons and ease parent stress by developing Montessori activities for preschoolers. But what about using the Montessori approach for parenting and discipline? That is much harder to package in a box and deliver to a parent’s door.
A Montessori Approach To Parenting and Discipline
Don’t we all wish there was a parenting manual that was delivered with your baby? Instructions on how to help them grow and develop in a positive home environment. Maybe an extra chapter on your child’s personality and aversions to sensory materials, foods, or sounds.
It just isn’t reality. But Dr. Montessori spent her life studying children and wrote her findings in many amazing books. She created an approach that empowers parents to discipline with love and guide their children to learning for themselves.
Learning Through Experiences
One of the core principles of the Montessori approach is that children learn through experience. Instead of instruction, they develop skills and the ability to reason through activities and direct experience.
Dr. Montessori observed that children are sponges, where each new experience is absorbed and helps them make sense of the world.
One amazing way to observe this in your own child is through practical life work. With this type of work, children are engrossed in perfection. They marvel at their own abilities to pour, wash, and arrange items in their everyday world. Through these experiences they develop a confidence in themselves.
How can a parent support this independence? Allow your child to help with the cleaning and cooking. Give them the responsibility to make their own bed, feed the dog, or wash the windows. And, although difficult, allow them as they struggle through little tasks like buttoning their shirt and tying their shoes. These tasks develops the child’s character.
Learning About Life
Let us share with you a scenario many parents are familiar with: the child wants the toy the parent or caregiver has said they may not have. The child experiences this new tension of their own desires and circumstances they can’t control. Barely aware of their own feelings, they instinctively express anger and/or sadness. When that anger and sadness comes out, it is labeled as “bad behavior” or “acting out.”
What happens next is pivotal. It is not just about the thing the child wants but can’t have. Because the child is that learning sponge, they are actually developing their whole approach to life. Just like learning that a cube cannot fit into a circular hole, they must learn cause and effect of their reactions. If the parent says that a certain behavior is not acceptable, the answer must remain “no”. The parent can express with different words, and when appropriate explain the reasons why. However, the point is: the more the child understands the parents’ words are true the more they learn about life.
As a parent, standing behind decisions takes practice and perseverance. Talk with a spouse or caregiver to be sure the standard the parents sets for the child is upheld throughout their daily life. The more consistency there is in parenting and discipline the better it is for the child. They will not have a question later in life on what is true. They will accept the “no” answer the first time and skip the whining.
Short Sighted Parenting
Let’s take the same scenario from above with a different reaction from the parent. A parent may want to just make the “bad behavior” stop. Many parents are taught that the goal of parenting is to prevent “bad behavior” or make it go away.
Imagine the child wants to play with the same toy from our above example, but is told not to. The child starts to cry. To stop the “bad behavior” the parents gives them the toy. This may stop the crying, but through this experience the child develops a model of how life works: “if I can’t get what I want, whining will get it or something better.”
Parents may use these “bad behavior” opportunities to help the child learn a healthy way to communicate needs and wants. The parent is the child’s first teacher and parents can take the opportunity to help children learn through consistency.
If the parent skips the opportunity to teach, the tactics which are taken to stop “bad behavior” in early childhood take a similar and more sophisticated form as the child grows up. The parent finds themselves bartering to get chores done. They may issue threats or rewards as motivation or demanding something, but then doing it yourself when the child doesn’t.
One helpful parenting technique is the phrase “Asked and Answered”. Using this technique eliminates the whining or arguments which children may use to get what they want.
A Simple Question
Parents can approach discipline the Montessori way with a simple question: What does this teach my child about life?
If I pickup their mess? If I count to 3 with the promise of a threat? If I ignore real behavior problems?
How does all this form their view of life and how does it teach them to interact with the world around them?
A Montessori teacher’s role (among other things) is to prepare the classroom environment to prepare them to learn. In the same way, a parent who asks this question when dealing with their child’s behavior prepares them for life.
We hope you use these concepts and work them into your parenting journey. If you need extra support our Montessori By Mom community would be happy to help!
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– Nathan & Teresa Hadsall