I would like to share my thoughts and experience in behavior management when working with preschool children.
Sometimes terms like “positive discipline” and “peaceful parenting” can be interpreted in a way that confuses many parents, leaving them to believe that creating proper boundaries, rules and discipline is damaging for their child’s development. I am a very strong believer that every child needs boundaries and discipline in their life. In fact, according to the studies “Children whose parents are warm and responsive yet also set limits and have reasonable expectations for their children tend to have better outcomes than their peers whose parents show less warmth and responsiveness, have low expectations, or both”.
Maria Montessori believed that misbehavior originates in the child’s environment, his circumstances, and surroundings: …defects in character, disappear of themselves…One does not need to threaten or cajole, but only to ‘normalizing the conditions under which the child lives.” (Maria Montessori, Discovery of the Child)
In the Montessori environment, behavior management is done in the form of redirecting and gluing. You can read more about it in this article: Gluing and Redirecting Behavior in the Montessori Classroom
- Never let behavior repeat the pattern. It means that undesired behavior has to be addressed every single time it occurs when it occurs.
- Give children your undivided attention
- Speak right there and then
- Never correct the child in front of other people, always take them aside
- Make eye contact and use a firm voice
- Say: “In Montessori (in our home) we do not hurt others”
- Ask the question: “How do you think you made Josh feel? – “Would you like someone to make you feel sad and hurt?” “What do you think you should do”.
- Ask the child to apologize if they are ready and find out if Josh needs a band-aid, water, or a cuddle.
- Remind that “We do to others as you would have them do to you”.
- Ask them to sit next to you and calm down
- Empower the child by offering them a choice: “Make your choice: you may join us for the storytime after you clean your craft table or if you choose not to clean it – you may stay where you are, it is up to you.”
- Share your feelings and emotions when you see unjust behavior – let the child know how it makes you feel and why you feel that way.
- Create the set of rules book together by asking leading questions. Add photos of the child following every rule during the day. One book for each occasion: “Going outside” “Home rules” “Shopping” “Visiting Friends” etc. Revisit the book every time the rule needs to be addressed.
- Do role-play among parents (or teachers), include the child in the role play.
- Storytelling followed by discussion is very powerful.
- Demonstrate respect and be fair to the children every single time.
- Acknowledge positive interactions and the right choices when you see them.
- Create a loving environment. It is contagious and the child learns easily to be fair, kind, compassionate, understanding, caring, protective, selfless.
- Never shame a child for feeling their feelings and having certain emotions, but acknowledge them, empathize and help them to deal with their emotions in a constructive way: “I know that it makes you feel upset when I turn off the TV, but it is time to brush your teeth”.
Books: Hands are not for hitting. Words are not for hurting. Feet are not for kicking. Teeth are not for biting. Sharing time. Listening time. Calm down time. Punished by Rewards: The Trouble with Gold Stars, Incentive Plans, A’s, Praise, and Other Bribes
Montessori Answers has a great article: Misconception: Montessori teachers don’t believe in discipline
Lisa Nolan Montessori has a wide range of practical advice for parents, click here to read her behavior management posts.
Trillium Montessori in her post “How to start a new class” provides an in-depth overview of various issues encountered in the classroom at the beginning of a new year.