Montessori on Discipline and Obedience

Montessori philosophy interprets “discipline” (Montessori,1988) and “obedience” (Montessori, 1988) in a different way than any other philosophy does. This essay intends to discuss and define those two important factors in detail and explains the difference between them. ” Discipline” and “obedience” can only be discussed in combination with freedom in a prepared environment. Freedom not only allows the child to progress in his/her own pace, it also fosters the child’s emerging inner discipline.

However within this freedom the teacher needs to introduce and support some basic ground rules to maintain a safe and respectful environment where each child is happy and content.

(MCI, Philosophy module, 2003) Montessori believes that a child is disciplined when he/she has control of him/herself and is able to take responsibility for him/her own actions and others surrounding them. Discipline is an active process which develops slowly within a child. Therefore it is not possible to obtain discipline by command. (Montessori,1988) There are 3 important components to attain discipline.

First they require the information about the difference between right and wrong. To attain that, the teacher has to set ground rules which the child is not allowed to break. The second component the child requires to find his/her inner discipline, is a prepared environment. The child needs to be able to explore and experiment within this environment. The environment should be maintained by the teacher. The third is to move freely within this environment to perfect their co-ordination skills. Control of movement is engrossed with the development of discipline.

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As soon as a child starts working independently, he/she starts to concentrate on a task. The child gets more and more interested in the task and therefore starts repeating it. The concentration spells become longer. This concentration then leads to a calmer and more controlled child. Through achieving self discipline the child has developed self-knowledge and self-possession. The teacher needs to make sure that each child is actually able to progress and develop their inner self through the activities he/she makes available.

She/He also needs to be aware of the sensitive periods and the individuality. ” Discipline is, therefore, not a fact, but a way. ”(Montessori (1988), page 307) Obedience does have many meanings. In old time education most teachers used to impose their own will onto the child. Unfortunately you can still find it that way in many schools now. However Montessori is actually interpreting obedience in a very different way. She thinks that obedience is a basic characteristic of a human being. A child is choosing to obey when he/she is ready for it.

Obedience itself is not formed, it needs to slowly develop. Through the development of will the child also progresses and develops own powers. Therefore it is important not to impose your own will onto the child. Will can be broken quickly, but it needs a long time to progress. Our aim is only to cultivate the child’s will and to prepare the right environment. Montessori found out that there are 3 levels of obedience. The first level is dictated by a force called “horme” (Montessori, 1988) . The child is only able to obey if he/she has reached the required developmental stage.

Sometimes a child might be able to obey once but not again. That doesn’t mean that the child is disobedient; it only tells you that the child is not very confident within the required task. At this level obedience and disobedience is closely connected with each other. The second level is the fact that a child can always obey, if all the obstacles are removed. The child’s will can be directed by him/herself and also by somebody else. That doesn’t mean that he/she actually will obey all the time. It can happen that a child is disobedient, because it wants to test the boundaries.

As soon as the boundaries are clear to the child it will most probably obey. The last and third level is given when a child obeys with joy and anxiety. Obedience becomes a prompt and natural reaction. Only through obedience is it possible to have a social life. (Montessori, 1988) Obedience and discipline are linked with each other. When the child got to a stage where he/she is able to concentrate over a longer period, he/she is going to start repeating activities . Therefore she/he builds up her control of movement and gains independence. This leads to self-discipline.

The child starts to use his/her skills to perfect them, he/she takes responsibility for his/her own actions and is able to follow rules. After attaining self-discipline the child has got the power to obey. After achieving all those stages you can see a disciplined and obedient child through his/her own will power. (MCI Philosophy Module, 2003) “The freedom to develop one’s own powers is the cornerstone of Montessori education. ” (MCI Philosophy Module (2003), page 56) One of the first instincts of a child is to do things by him/herself. The child is only able to develop along the natural path if he/she is independent and free.

Many people oppose to Montessori’s idea of freedom. They combine freedom with chaos and indiscipline. However Montessori believed the child can only reveal him/herself in a free environment. To establish freedom the child needs to be guided towards independence, will and discipline. First the child needs activities he/she can do by him/herself. Second the child needs activities which encourage him/her to achieve a goal through co-ordinated movements. This will help the child to develop his/her will. Third the child needs to be guided towards constructive work.

This leads to the development of discipline. Fourth the child needs to understand the difference between right or wrong. Therefore the teacher has to set limits within the free environment. In a Montessori classroom the child is able to move around freely outside as well as inside. Free choice is a very important factor in Montessori philosophy. The child is allowed to choose what he/she likes to do. To give the child access to all activities it is necessary to have low cupboards. To ensure independency the activities need to have the `control of error` (Montessori, 1964).

That means the child is able to figure out a way to do the activity properly without asking the teacher for help. However sometimes the child needs to have an introduction to certain activities by the teacher. Those introductions have to be clear and brief. It is also important for the teacher to find the right time to introduce an activity. Montessori classrooms do not have a timetable like other traditional nurseries have, so the child is not forced to join in on any group activities. To not encourage competition and humiliation there are no rewards and punishments within a Montessori classroom.

The child does not need rewards. He/She rewards him/herself with gaining knowledge and learning new skills. Punishment is humiliating and disrespectful to the child. It also doesn’t actually help towards the way of `normalisation` (Montessori, 1988). The child is able to sort out his/her own problems and conflicts within his/her social life. If a child does not want to share his/her activity with someone, it is not forced to do so. He/She can always speak and initiate activities with other children as long as the child is not disrupting the other children.

Because there is no competition between the children it encourages them more to help each other. The mixed age groups within a Montessori setting are very helpful, as the younger children can observe the older children. That leads to independence from the teacher. Each child is able to progress at their own pace and is seen as an individual. It is very important for a child to be free to learn about his/her own abilities. Through that he/she gains self-knowledge and self confidence. This leads to self control and self control helps children to develop his/her inner discipline.

However freedom does not mean free licence. There need to be certain boundaries within this environment to ensure safety and respect. (Lillard, 1972) Ground rules are important for children and teachers alike to enjoy a safe and comfortable environment. However there should be as few rules as possible to ensure the development of independence and to maintain the freedom of choice. Sometimes it is helpful to involve the children in deciding the basic rules. Safety is one of the most important factors of ground rules. The second factor is respect towards others and towards yourself.

Teachers are the models of the rules which everybody will follow. The teacher needs to be very consistent and also work together with the other teachers/assistants in the classroom to maintain the set limits. Children do need boundaries otherwise they would not know what the teacher expects of them. However sometimes you need to repeat the rules, especially to the new children. (MCI Practical life Module, 2003) Overall Montessori philosophy wants to highlight the importance of the development of independence, discipline, obedience and freedom within a prepared environment.

The child should only be guided not forced to progress in all areas within a favourable environment. It is therefore necessary that the teacher only influences the child indirectly. On the way of self realisation the child might not always choose the ideal path. Without the interference of the teacher the child will realise his/her own mistakes and will intend to make the right decision next time. Consequently the most favoured quote of Maria Montessori is: “Please help me to do it myself. ”

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Montessori on Discipline and Obedience. (2017, Feb 24). Retrieved from

Montessori on Discipline and Obedience
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