Relationship Between Discipline and Obedience from the Montessori Perspective

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MONTESSORI PHILOSOPHY ESSAY 10/06/06 RADEN DAVIS
Explain the relationship between discipline and obedience from the Montessori perspective and discuss how discipline and obedience are linked to the development of the will.

The word ‘discipline' has a harsh connotation in today's society. It conveys images of strict teachers with canes and authoritarian figures laying down the law. It is something enforced by external forces and maintained by fear of repercussions or punishment. But this kind of forced discipline only appears from the outside to be effective. Rather like a regiment of soldiers on parade. It is really a form of acting on the part of the submissive child to play by the rules and to either be rewarded for this or to be punished for doing the opposite. This is sadly is a serious deviation from the natural way of life. In this essay I intend to write about how discipline and obedience play a vital role in the making of a person, and how both these virtues are related in the development of the will.

Discipline from the Montessorian perspective is not something external but growing from within the individual. A disciplined child is a free individual able to make choices for him or herself. It is a natural law of life that is an on going process dependent on personal freedom. It cannot be taught through words but by action.

‘Discipline is therefore attained indirectly, that is, by developing activity in spontaneous work.' (M.Montessori, (1948) The Discovery of The Child')

It is commonly thought that obedience follows after the will of the individual is broken. Montessori believed however that the will and the obedience of the child go hand in hand. It is not a case of breaking the will but letting it develop naturally. If you have one you must have the other; the will to be obedient.

‘If the child is not yet master of his actions, if he cannot obey even his own will, so much the less can he obey the will of someone else.' (M. Montessori, Montessori Talks to Parents 1: The Three Levels of Obedience)
Montessori's idea of obedience is not to be demanded from the child but obtained by a gradual maturation. A young person therefore must have a will in order obey and so be disciplined. In the teachings of Montessori all three are intertwined. There is no need for a teacher to use up energy controlling a class when, given a chance in the right setting, a child learns to master him/herself.

‘In a word they are ‘self-controlled', and to the extent that they are thus controlled they are free from the control of others.' (M. Montessori, (1988), ‘The Discovery of The Child')

The chance to concentrate comes with the movement involved in doing the activities. In order for the child to learn through activity there needs to be equipment ready for him/her to choose. Montessori called this the ‘prepared environment'. This equipment is laid out at eye level for the small children by the teacher. It is like a library of things to do where instead of books the activities are the keys to knowledge. This prepared environment gives the child access to the tools used for survival in the adult world.

‘A child tries to act like the adults about him, making use of the same objects.' (M. Montessori, (1972) ‘The Secret of Childhood') These activities act as the bridge between the child and the environment. What the child learns in the nursery s/he can apply to the home in a practical way. An ideal situation in the home could be when the child is given the opportunity to prepare a meal. The adults around the child need to be supportive in the child's choices and allow mistakes to happen.

The spirit of the classroom allows the child the freedom to choose. In this way the child's intrinsic motivation can be applied to learning without interference. It is a classroom designed to educate with materials for individualized learning. At home the child should be...
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