Positive Discipline & Natural Consequences

We previously touched upon Discipline when we wrote about “Freedom & Discipline” in the context of a Montessori classroom. Each child’s freedoms in the classroom are explored within the limits of other children’s freedoms. 

These individual and collective freedoms are all bound by the responsibilities to the expectations and norms in the community as a whole. 

Some examples from our classroom:

  • Children are free to socialize and interact as long as they are not interrupting another child’s focus and concentration
  • Children are free to choose an activity as long as the child works with it constructively and respectfully

To let the child do as he likes when he has not yet developed any power of control is to betray the idea of freedom.

Dr. Maria Montessori

Positive Discipline

Positive discipline is rooted in our preparation as adults through our mindset, our demeanour, our actions, and words.

Positive Discipline:

Positive Discipline also shows through in the positive phrases we use and setting up a “Yes” space – a safe, stimulating, and prepared area – for the child.

  • “We walk inside” vs. “Don’t run”
  • “We put the plate in the washing bin.” vs. “Don’t leave the plate on the table.”
  • “We say “I need space, please.”” vs. “Don’t push.”

Natural Consequences

Natural consequences are the logical results of an action. In this light, mistakes are viewed as learning exercises through organic experiences of the world and the community surrounding them. A few examples are highlighted below:

Glass can break if thrown. Open cups and bowls can spill water.

Water spills are sponged up. Drawings on the tables/walls are erased or washed off.

Taking too long to get dressed may mean an adult stepping in to help, an adult making the choices for the child, or in lost time.

“We don’t have time for a story because we used up that time to get ready.”

“We will be late for our appointment so I will help you put your coat on.” 

We observe to find the root cause of the behaviour. Point to the result of the behaviour. Role model and discuss more appropriate words/actions in the future. All the while, we keep in mind that safety is always the first priority.

“I cannot let you hit Johnny. We need to be safe.”

Once emotions are settled, we then discuss. Label the emotions, provide alternatives and role-model appropriate behaviour.

“You looked angry at Johnny for trying to take your ball. It’s really frustrating when someone tries to take something we’re playing with. We can say “No thank you!” or “I’m using the ball right now.””

Help the child learn from the experience, open it up for discussion.

“We use gentle hands with our friends. Are there any other words you could use to tell Johnny how you felt?”

“Johnny was crying and upset that he was pushed. What can we do to make him feel better?”

Time-outs versus Time-ins

The Montessori Notebook (Alternatives to Time Out) and Mother.ly (Why Montessori teachers don’t use time outs) both have wonderful articles outlining why we don’t use time outs.

Time outs often result in less connection between the adult and the child; this may lead to resentment at the punishment (and at the adult enforcing the punishment) instead of learning from one’s mistakes and making amends.

We use Time-ins instead. We are there for the child, in a safe space to feel his or her emotions. We can model ways to help regulate our emotions and reconnect once both the adult and the child are calm. Deep breath… I’m here if you need a hug.

Once emotions are regulated, we restate expectations and move forward with the natural consequences of the actions – making amends and revisiting the situation as appropriate.

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