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How to Discipline Effectively in a Montessori Environment


“We must lift children up, not pound them into the ground, we must view their negatives as positives and their flaws as gifts,” my instructor spoke about Montessori discipline.

I nodded ferociously.  Yes, yes, yes! At that moment, I wanted to climb on top of the table and scream, “Can I get an Amen, friends?”

My mom always used to say, “let’s not and say we did.” So, I took her advice and didn’t jump onto the table. However, I did close my eyes, smile a refreshing smile, and let out a deep sigh of relief.

Related Read: 15 of the Best Montessori Quotes for Parents

I was a new mom in my Montessori training, and suddenly, “it” all made sense.

Dr. Montessori believed in the power of positive discipline and positive communication in a child’s world. I am grateful to her.


What is Positive Discipline?

The key tenets of positive discipline overlap with the Montessori theory. For example, the approach rests on mutual respect, desires self-sufficiency, and focuses on allowing children to take ownership of their behavior. The approach also takes a long-term point of view, much like the work on early childhood lessons.

It will come to fruition later in development. Failure is ultimately a necessary part of the journey. The focus is on effort and encouragement as opposed to product and praise.

A mother disciplining her child

Positive discipline focuses on the positives of the behavior. For example, a child is jumping on a couch, and you want her to stop. You might say, “I notice you enjoy jumping, but please jump on the trampoline.” Or a child desires a cookie, you might say, in a kind yet firm tone, “Yes, you may have a cookie after dinner.” 

You want to understand what’s behind the negative behavior and address that issue. In addition, positive discipline has a lot to do with controlling your emotions. Furthermore, by attending to the behavior that you like or that is “positive”, you reinforce the behavior. Finally, you want to be consistent and always follow through on your response. 

Both communication and conflict resolution is central to a positive discipline approach. This, again, is similar to Montessori, especially within the context of the peace lessons, such as the peace rose.

A mother discipling a child

Montessori Discipline 101

When an environment is nearer chaos than discipline, the adult must do one of two things. The guide must 1) observe or 2) give individual lessons/one-on-one time. Free choice is the ultimate goal. However, a free choice cannot be utilized if a child lacks the strength of will and inner discipline. He will respond to every stimulus in his environment. He cannot yet obey his inner guide.

Quote about Montessori discipline

The guide observes the child. She knows when to intervene to direct the child back to an activity that suits his development. If the child is not treating material properly, the guide will redirect the child to end that work.

Perhaps he was not ready to complete that work. Or maybe he needs another lesson on that work. The child learns respect through these experiences.

To Intervene or Not to Intervene?

A teacher should never interfere with a child’s work with praise or punishment. If this happens, a child will feel inadequate. He will believe he can’t guide himself. This causes his self-esteem and motivation to suffer. In the end, he is discouraged.

The teacher prepares spiritually, and then she must focus on giving lessons. From there, the child leads his learning to experience. He leads with his own “hands” and a “control of error” built into the works to enable auto-education.

A mother disciplining her child

Discipline in a Montessori Environment

The teacher‘s role is to observe and recognize when to intervene to direct the child back to an activity that suits his development. A child can only improve if allowed to practice by his own will for extended periods.  It is much better it is to recognize my mistakes and then correct them. If anything is likely to make the character indecisive, it is the inability to control matters without seeking advice.

A mother overwhelmed with her children

This begets a discouraging sense of inferiority and a lack of confidence in one’s self.  Errors correct themselves in time and with practice. Their existence is unavoidable in life permanently. Even in science, the goal is twofold. First, to measure a precise figure, and second, to measure the extent to which that figure could be wrong or deviate from that “precise figure.”

Discipline Resources to Check Out:

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