Freedom and Discipline the Montessori Way
Freedom means being able to choose what is good for oneself. All people want what is good for themselves, yet freedom also comes with responsibility. Children need the guidance and patience of the adults around them to develop self-discipline. Discipline is the inner awareness and control over one’s reconciliation between one’s own needs and the environment’s needs. Without discipline, a person is ultimately unable to do what he wants. As such, freedom and discipline are considered two sides of the same coin. Without one, you cannot genuinely have the other.
At IMS, Montessori children experience freedom within a structure in a carefully prepared environment. He is free to ask for or reject help. He is free to use materials. He is free to choose companions. He is free to sit where he wants. He is free to move. He is free to eat snack. He is free to use the toilet. Like all spaces, the child is also shown the limits; he is not allowed to hurt himself or others, to disturb his peers, or to misuse the materials. Gradually, with daily practice and experience, the children learn to make proper decisions for themselves. At every interaction, the environment builds this confidence that the child is capable of making good choices for himself because his decisions are respected and valued. Children also experience the logical and natural consequences of their own choices. Once the child makes a decision, he is allowed to experience the real outcomes of that choice on his own. The teacher’s role is to help the child understand the consequences of his action. The child begins to develop accountability for himself because he has to accept with the result of his choices. This is how the child develops genuine responsibility. The child knows what he needs and can focus on that. When his behaviour requires the teacher’s attention, the child is redirected with positive and affirmative words.
Ultimately, the goal is for the young child to become a disciple of himself, an individual in tune with his inner core, and a person who can balance his needs with those around him, rather than one who follows others. This security develops when it is allowed to expand from within the child internally. Just as every infant is driven by an internal developmental plan; each and every child will develop according to his inner guide on his own time. All we can do is prepare him for the journey. The child, in fact, once secure, no longer seeks the approval of authority for every step. This is the way Montessori environments prepare the child for the path ahead, and not the path for the child.
“The prize and the punishment are incentives towards unnatural or forced effort, and therefore we certainly cannot speak of the natural development of the child in connection with them.