Montessori Glossary Community Project

Discipline from within

When Montessori speaks of discipline it is always clear she refers to what we now call ‘self-discipline’, needed for independence or  ‘self regulating discipline’, needed for interdependence. The word has an origin in 12th century old French ‘treatment that corrects or punishes’, later the meaning progresses to instruction, education, however still based on rules. Freedom within bounds requires discipline. To be able to say YES!, we also need a fair amount of no’s and vice versa. When Montessori uses these terms, she refers to the inner leader/voice and another important word ‘obedience’. The boundaries set in the prepared environment encourage healthy discipline. Next to the earlier mentioned forms of discipline the pedagogical environment also knows ‘encouraging discipline’ or ‘coaching discipline’, where the adult carefully directs, orders or encourages to make the right steps (‘Help somebody to do it themselves’ Montessori), this pedagogical intervention comes in many shapes and forms and is a precision instrument. By all means in any pedagogical environment there are also rules that are managed through authoritative discipline, or ‘top-down’. Dare say many case studies show that this kind of healthy management of safety is much less needed in a strong Montessori environment, then people often suspect, when working with young people.

Montessori, given her religious background, is possibly also fond of specifically rebranding these words to awake the directors of the classroom from their upbringing. The prepared environment should guide young people to think and act out of their own merit in relation to their environment. Instead of larger institutions laying down the law and preaching consequences.