Primary Program

Freedom and Discipline in the Montessori Classroom

by Cecilia Fernandez, Primary Teacher

Freedom and discipline go hand in hand. This statement might seem counterintuitive and even contradictory at first glance. However, we know that if a child is to develop true internal discipline, having the liberty to practice making choices and decisions is what allows it to flourish.

In the Montessori classroom, self-discipline is something that grows from within the individual. The guide (teacher) prepares the environment with a deep understanding of the children’s developmental needs. Every one of the activities in the classroom meets those needs.

Within the constant cycle of activity, the child becomes conscious of his/her actions and the activity that his/her hands are performing. Once he is able to concentrate for periods at a time, he will be driven to repeat the activity, which in turn will foster control of movement as well as independence.

Along with the work, there are very clear boundaries in the Montessori classroom. This structure ensures a respectful environment in which everyone is cared for and honored.

As an example, one of the most basic rules in the classroom is that a child may work with any material that he/she has been shown. This gives children the opportunity to practice control of the will, as the temptation to take material that he/she has not been shown is always present.

Maria Montessori considered the will as being crucial to a child’s development. A child’s will is not something to be broken, but instead a step in the child’s journey to discover proper self-regulation, to control impulses and to become a well-adjusted adult in our society.

A fine balance of freedom and responsibility supports the development of the will. By developing their willpower, children are better prepared for the world. Through freedom and limits, children develop self-confidence, independence and respect.

Discipline must come through liberty…”-Maria Montessori