Tuesday, April 3, 2012

MontessoriSeeds: Right Perception Coupled With Discipline

(My first blog on discipline is important to read before this one)
In the book "The Tao of Montessori: Reflections on Compassion" by Catherine Mc Tamaney, she has a great quote with regards to discipline and perception.

If we have neither sufficient experience nor love to enable us to distinguish the fine and delicate expressions of the child's life, if we do not know how to respect them, then we perceive them only when they are manifested violently.  ~ Maria Montessori

This falls very nicely into the concept of the pendulum needing to stay more in the center.  So many of us have misperceptions both of Montessori and more authoritarian perspectives on parenting such as the ones that John Rosemond seems to express (I will say that John Rosemond does have some similarities to Montessori's philosophy).  Yet, on a different note this just goes to show how well Montessori 'got it'.  This blog is about helping to dispel some of these illusions.

First, I want to start with the concept of right perception.  By right I mean as accurate and as educated of a perception as possible.  A whole new experience occurs when we sit back and observe our child.  We have to peel away the attachments that come along with observing to get to the core of what is going on.  When you observe an object such as an apple, your mind automatically forms attachments to that object, judgements.  Observe it for what it is, what you see, not even what you perceive on an atomic level.  Sure atoms are so compact that it makes this solid sitting in front of you.  However, you are not observing this.  Just like you are not observing the child's inner feelings.  You are observing a reflection or opposite reaction of what is going on internally.  Remember, observe it for what it is, not for what you judge it to be.  That is the start to a helpful and 'right' perception. 

Right perception opens your mind to prepare the child's environment in such a way that his or her needs will be met, discipline will be found, and the child can move on to fulfill the next internal need.  Montessori believed that deviations in behavior simply come from internal needs not being met.  Think about how you respond as an adult in a given situation when your needs are not met, or how you want to respond but have the will-power, hopefully, to choose not to. 

In talking about needs, we have to talk about right perception.  There is a difference of course between a child's needs and his or her desires.  We are not respecting the child if we are giving into their desires.  As adults, we also have a duty to not give into our children because it is easier for us.  This is what Montessori is also talking about when she says respect the child.  Give the child the opportunity for success, and you will know you have successfully done this when the deviated behavior is not longer displayed. 

We are supposed to discipline our children, teachers and parents, are meant to help the child teach themselves.  That is discipline.   When an adult gets angry and punches a hole in the wall or worse, think about what the consequences are when that happens.  Think about the possible logical and natural consequences.  Does someone go up to the adult and say to him or her, "Aw, you must have felt frustrated, let's talk about a better way to handle that for next time buddy?"  I really do not think so.  We are doing the elementary aged child and older a disservice if we do anything other then give them natural and logical consequences.  Grounding them for a week with no television has nothing to do with punching a hole in the wall.

Change your perception and discipline will come.  Not only for the child in the classroom or at home but for the adult as well.  Believe me I know that no one said it would be easy.  However, it is possible to have fun with it.  Think of it as a mystery game that you have to figure out.  It is a life puzzle.


N from the Learning Ark said...

Thank you for your informative posts on discipline. I recently run a positive discipline workshop for the staff at my school. It's been a blessing to see the children's behavior change by simply changing the way we see children's behavior and responding in the correct way.

Matthew Simberg said...

Thank you for your comment! I would love to hear more about it. Have you read "The Not yet Peaceful Child." I learned a lot from using that perspective from Donna's case reports in her book.

N from the Learning Ark said...

I read Donna's book about four years ago and it really changed the way I am as a parent and teacher. I have just taken it out to reread it. I'm also reading 'positive discipline' by Jane Nelsen and so far everything she says fits in exactly with my Montessori training. Any other discipline books you recommend? Thanks.

Matthew Simberg said...

If I think of any others that really stand out I will definitely let you know!