Monday, April 2, 2012

Discipline For The Elementary Aged Child

Any age person needs discipline in order to be successful and fulfilled.  Discipline is often a misunderstood term with a negative connotation.  Modern definitions of discipline relate to punishment, control and order.  However, this is not what discipline means in its originally intended form. 

When someone has discipline they have the ability to motivate themselves regardless of a negative emotional state.  Someone with discipline demonstrates will power, the ability to work hard and is persistent. Parents and teachers have a duty to instill discipline.  However, because of the many gimmicks out there, the misunderstandings of what works short term and what works long term, and the ignorant guidance of many so called professionals, our parents, children, and teachers are struggling.  It seems to me that as a generation we are experiencing a pendulum effect.  It is up to us, the parents and teachers, to keep the pendulum from swinging and find the balance in the middle.

The generation that grew up until the late sixties experienced 'punishment', 'repression of feelings', 'order', 'structure', and 'complacency'.  Then in the seventies there was more of a swing in the pendulum.  The protection of feelings took precedence.  Thomas Gordan had a best selling book with a theme that highlighted what many professionals were starting to share with parents and other professionals.  The message was that since children do not like being told what to do, they should not be told what to do.  Also, if parents continued to be authoritative, their children would fill the offices of psychologists when they became adults.  So, there was a stream of acceptance of feelings and disregard for the controlling of those feelings.  This in turn lead to a pitfall of children that did not learn discipline.  These two extremes have lead to exclusivity, anxieties, and a need to hang on tighter to one of these two ways of raising our children. 

With all of this said, discipline for the elementary aged child can best be instilled with the right understanding and application of freedom and responsibility.  Dr. Maria Montessori had an incredibile understanding of these concepts upon studying the development of numerous children throughout the world.  To be free is to not be under the control of some arbitrary power, but to be given the freedom to only be restricted by ones own limits.  The adult should create this safe and 'free' environment in the classroom and at home.  Adults should purposefully create the environment for the child to be free within.  Montessori calls this the prepared environment.  Freedom and a prepared environment alone minimizes a child's mental and emotional abnormalities and struggles.  Responsibility is another piece to this puzzle which brings about self-discipline. When a child is taught and can distinguish right from wrong, and be held accountable for his or her behavior either by themselves or the adult then they can have more freedom.  Freedom and responsibility go hand in hand and consequences for given actions should be natural or logical for the sake of teaching discipline, being taught in and of it self, not to control a behavior that the adults wants.  Montessori taught that teachers should be guides for the child to act freely and responsibly in society with discipline so that they may be successful contributing members.  I think parents should be guides too.  No one said it was easy, but no one said it was impossible either. 

Please know that there is a lot more to be said and learned then what is written within the contents of this blog with regards to Dr. Montessori.  This is simply meant to be a seed for others to enjoy and to do with it what they will.  A lot of the information disseminated within comes from my experience, understanding, training and research.  I hope you enjoy it and I look forward to your comments. 


Alan Simberg said...

This blog gives an excellent historical perspective on the development of attitudes and practices regarding discipline. I agree with the need and importance of having freedom to develope responsibility. This helps to avoid power struugles and makes it illogical for an individual to blame someone else for the results of an action. In today's society I believe it is essential for children to develop self-discipline and responsibility for their behavior. AS

Annicles said...

Yes, yes and yes!!
I come at this from two different view points. The first is as the mother of three children aged 7, 9 and 11.
The second is as a Montessori teacher of a class of 6-9 year olds.
From my parent point of view, the prepared environment is harder to maintain, as the home environment is more emotionally fraught. However, as a teacher I see what happens when the child's home life does not provide the stability and direction necessary.
From both points of view I do my best to maintain a stable, clear and well defined environment.

Matthew Simberg said...

Thank you for your well thought out comment. I appreciate it!

Matthew Simberg said...

I think that is an excellent point. As Montessori teachers we have the advantage of the prepared environment. All, too much not only is there the struggle of keeping the prepared environment at home, but also the cooperation of the spouse. Wouldn't it be nice to have a Montessori SuperNanny?!?!