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Effective Discipline the Montessori Way

Table of Contents

  1. The Problem

  2. Montessori's View of Discipline

  3. Understanding the Child

  4. Discipline Practices Based on Montessori's Principles

  5. Alternate Discipline Practices

  6. Techniques for Proper Discipline

  7. Children and Conflict

  8. Proper and Improper Adult Reactions to Misbehavior

  9. Summary and Conclusion


Appendix 1 How to Communicate Effectively When Disciplining

Appendix 2 For Parents—Suggestions for Establishing Consequences

Appendix 3 For Montessori Teachers—Classroom Management

Discipline in regards to child behavior is often thought of as inflicting “suffering, pain, or loss that serves as retribution” or “severe, rough, or disastrous treatment” for the purpose of enforcing obedience.  Control through the use of punishment is an incorrect definition of discipline.  An accurate definition is: “training that corrects, molds, or perfects the mental faculties or moral behavior” and/or “trains by instruction and practice, as in following rules or developing self-control.”

In order to achieve good self-discipline, the child needs two things: he needs to develop his reasoning skills by acquiring knowledge about reality and he needs discipline from the adult. Unfortunately, most educational systems do not center around cognitive development.  Cognitive development is ignored due to philosophical ideas that have gained traction in our culture.  Chief among these ideas detrimental to discipline is determinism.

At a given moment a child becomes interested in a piece of work, showing it by the expression of his face, by his intense attention, by his perseverance in the same exercise. That child has set foot upon the road leading to discipline.                                                                                                                    MARIA MONTESSORI

Montessori thought that children were capable of acquiring the ability to reason, but identifying, integrating, and applying knowledge doesn’t happen automatically.  Children need to learn how to think accurately and efficiently.  They also need discipline from the adult to assist in the process of learning how to reason.  And learning how to reason is needed for moral behavior.

The child’s behavior is based on the conclusions he draws from his knowledge and the choices he makes because of those conclusions; it is based on his ability to reason.  

The adult’s responsibility lies in helping the child learn how to make good choices. 

A child’s upbringing is enormously impactful, which is why adults need to do the best they can to help him learn right from wrong, but the child is ultimately responsible for the decisions he makes and the type of person he becomes.


Adults need to use the word “no” with children.  Children need to learn that reality is what it is, it isn’t negotiable, and it can’t be changed.  There are objective standards based on reality pertaining to morality and safety, and it doesn’t matter whether they like it or not.

Parents and teachers who accept the premise of the determinists, that the child does not have a free will, do not hold the child responsible for his own behavior.

Montessori’s method of discipline is revolutionary because the goal is independence, not obedience.  Rather than the adult controlling the child, the child learns how to control himself.  He doesn’t need to be constantly bombarded with commands from the adult on how to behave because he develops the ability to behave on his own.  He develops self-discipline.

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