Self-Discipline in Montessori
Thoughts & Reflections
We Follow Through. It’s one of the ways we support children. We don’t just say something once, we’ll demonstrate and remind and model and assist and observe a thousand times, and then we’ll do it again.
Everything is neutral to a child. There is no “right” way to sit on a chair, except that we have all agreed this is how we sit, and so it is our responsibility as educators to help a child know The Right Way.
We help a child become part of the community when we help them to do things The Right Way. No one, especially not young children, likes to be around someone who doesn’t do things the right way. It makes us uncomfortable when someone skips the line, even when they didn’t see it, or when someone speaks rudely to another, even when we know what it’s like to have a bad day when everything goes wrong, or when someone drives erratically, even when we’re in a rush to get home for a small emergency.
We make these social agreements, and it’s how we function as a society. In the same way, older children, The Group, usher children into this classroom community, by demonstrating how we function as a classroom group.
There is a right way to do things, and we, the adults and the more experienced children, are here to help you learn the right way, too.
But why does it matter?
Does it really matter if I carry everything carefully, arms bent at the elbows, carrying a box with a lid identically to how I carry a tray with water in a glass, silently, precisely?
Yes, it absolutely matters.
Where’s the harm in twirling a bucket as you walk, or spinning a cloth, or tucking in your chair with a hip-check, puzzle in hand?
There might not be harm, per se, but there could be harm in what might follow.
Let’s follow the path of the dominoes.
If I don’t carry something the right way, I might not think too highly of that material. If I don’t think too highly of the material, I might not use it to its fullest benefit, or take seriously the learning I’m doing. If I don’t take my work seriously, why should I respect the work of others? If I don’t respect other’s work, I might not respect other’s bodies, or learning, or personal space. I might casually bump into another child, the same way I casually bump my chair into place. I might not care that my twirling bucket sloshes water onto someone else’s careful work. I might not care that carrying that box without care means the pieces are smashing together, chipping the paint, and suddenly nothing and no one is respected or cared for.
Let’s step back off the ledge and take a deep breath.
But seriously, everything matters. The little things become the big things. How you carry an item translates into how you carry yourself; how you treat materials becomes how you treat others.
So we pay attention. We demonstrate and we model and we support until it becomes second nature, for everything with a child is overt and challenging until it becomes their habit. Their habits become their personalities.
We are disciplined, so a child can become disciplined. And all of a sudden, It’s there. A child stands up from her chair, basket in hand, half turns away from her chair, before placing the basket on the table and tucking in her chair using both her hands. A child laughs and says, “you can go first” when there’s a traffic jam at the doorway. A child is asked to tidy a shelf, and we turn around and it’s flawless.
We have to be endlessly patient, and we cultivate this patience actively. The transformation, as a child is developing care, control, awareness of their surroundings and of others, is magical. It can only grow, where the seeds are sown. With care, with tending, with nurturing support, repeating and modelling, until it bursts into bloom, and we take joy, and move to what comes next.
Written by:Charlotte Wood