Magazine article Montessori Life

Discipline: Developing Self-Control

Magazine article Montessori Life

Discipline: Developing Self-Control

Article excerpt


Children are born with no control over their bodies or their behavior. They are helpless and need the complete care of someone who will nurture them and protect them. As they grow and develop, they gain control of their own bodies, lifting their heads, gaining strength in the trunk and then sitting, gaining control of the arms and legs, usually crawling, pulling up, and then walking.

In about 1 year, they have gained control of their bodies and language is developing. They can understand what is said to them and are beginning to use words. Now that they can control more of their world, it is not necessary to wait for someone to move them from one spot to another. They can even tell their caregiver what they want or need.

No one, however, expects a child of 1 year to control his/her behavior. The parent continues to work to see that the child has enough food and rest to feel content, and most babies respond to positive experiences with the growth of emotional well being. When the child is hungry, tired, overstimulated, or frustrated, it is the caregiver who helps to work out a solution.

Parents do not expect children at age 1 or 2 always to be calm and cooperative. They know that a child of this age can go quickly to sensory overload and meltdown.

Between 2 and 3 years of age, there is a period in which the brain reorganizes itself. Up until now it has had no inhibition control. If a young child wants something, he wants it and he wants it now! He does not understand waiting; in fact, he cannot do it.

As the brain develops at this period, the ability to inhibit actions is growing. By age 3, most children can understand that they may have to wait until the parent can do what they are asking. They are becoming increasingly cooperative because the neurological system is maturing and allowing them to control their behavior.

Self-discipline is learned by most children through imitation of those around them and with gentle but firm boundaries provided by their caregivers. If the parents are reasonably consistent in their expectations and use rewards and removal of privileges, most children find the world reasonable and cooperate with their caregivers.

Some children do not evidence the same easy development as just described. These children often have motor delays or disorders, speech and language delays or disorders, and behaviors which are not within normal limits for their age. These behaviors include attention issues, lack of inhibition control, continued temper fits, confrontational and oppositional behaviors, and/or obsessive and compulsive behaviors.

In these children, the neurological functioning which allows the child to "put the stops on" is lacking. Since self-- inhibition has not developed normally, it must be taught, if the child is to be successful in group situations. Discipline should always be done with love and support for the child.

Teaching Self-Control

All of the techniques for teaching selfcontrol to any child apply also to the child with control issues; but they take longer. They also require more consistency and very clear expectations.

In the Montessori system of teaching self-control, there are six components.

Structure. There must be a structure appropriate to the age-level of the students in the class, with freedoms and limits clearly defined. These include use of the prepared environment and "rules of the room" (all based on consideration of others).

Imitation. The teacher is an example. She must follow the room rules and use the manners she teaches to the students.

Direct Teaching. Part of the curriculum of these "grace and courtesy" lessons includes the following presentations.

- Exercises in opening and shutting doors, cupboards, windows, boxes, drawers, bottle tops.

- Social Relations: shaking hands., greeting a visitor, offering something to someone, inviting someone to do something, making way for someone to pass, asking someone's pardon, walking in front of another person, watching another work, asking for something, asking to do something, sitting on a chair, rising from a chair, eating with good manners, serving juice. …

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