The misconception that Montessori children are always allowed to do “whatever they want” is a common one. In truth, discipline is an integral part of every Montessori classroom, with the ultimate goal being to teach children to regulate themselves. It is important to understand that self-discipline is not a skill that is learned overnight; rather it is the result of many years of development.
“Let us always remember that inner discipline is something to come, not something already present. Our task is to show the way to discipline.” ~Maria Montessori
Freedom and Discipline: Two Sides of the Same Coin
In the Montessori classroom, children are, in fact, given the freedom to choose the activity that interests them at that particular moment. This is to maximize the child’s learning experience through tapping in to his/her sensitive periods. (For more information about sensitive periods, please click here.) However, the children are choosing activities from a carefully prepared environment. This is key! Without the carefully prepared environment, we cannot provide true freedom of choice for the child. Through careful observation of the child, teachers (and parents) can provide the right activities for the child’s development. The child is drawn to these appropriate activities which lead to spontaneous activity. Spontaneous activity leads to concentration, which then leads to what Maria Montessori called “normalization.”
“The essential thing is for the task to arouse such an interest that it engages the child’s whole personality.” ~Maria Montessori
What is Normalization?
Given the right environment and the freedom to choose their own tasks and pace, even the most exuberant children can become calm and amazingly focused. This transformation is called normalization, and it is a central principle of the the Montessori method. The idea is to help children find their inner calm, focused, and eager-to-learn nature, which Montessori teaches us is inherent in all children. As Maria Montessori discovered, all children have an innate hunger for learning and will work diligently at tasks that meet their specific needs and are appropriate for their particular level of development. It is the child whose needs are not being met who becomes temperamental, restless, and “naughty.”
It isn't always easy to know how to meet each individual child's needs. This is where a carefully prepared environment and freedom of choice work together to set the child up for success. In the right environment, children will engage in lessons of their own choosing. They will naturally find their inner teacher and tap into their innate desire to learn. Parents and teachers can help guide children toward tasks that foster skills such as concentration and self-discipline.
“It is a question of rapid, and at times, almost instantaneous change that comes from the same source. I would not be able to site a single example of a conversion (normalization) taking place without an interesting task that concentrates the child’s activities….” ~Dr. Maria Montessori
What is Self-Regulation and Why is it Important?
According to Age of Montessori’s Professional Development Webinar entitled Freedom and Discipline, Self-regulation is “a vital competency that is at the core of all success in learning and life. It is the ability to identify and modulate emotions, control impulses, delay gratification, make thoughtful, and consciences choices, and set goals and achieve them.”
Self-regulation is not an arriving point in children’s development, but a journey. It is one of the most vital skills for children to master in order to be successful in learning and in life. (This blog is continued here...)
For an in-depth study and discussion of these key concepts, sign up to watch Freedom and Discipline, a Professional Development Webinar presented by Age of Montessori. For more information about this and other Age of Montessori webinars, click here or anywhere on the image below...