Montessori on "Discipline" and "Obedience"

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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. (Montessori, 1964) 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...
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