Thursday, November 15, 2012

Thoughts on Teaching Values for Montessori Educators: Apologies, Sincerity, and Modeling Behavior

NAMC montessori educators thoughts on teaching values apologies sincerity modeling behavior
I recently had an encounter where the teenage son of a friend typed a very inappropriate response to a message I had sent my friend during an online chat. My response was “That was very inappropriate.” My friend was devastated when she realized what happened and was ready to ground her son. I asked her not to be hasty and let her know that I had already responded.

I suggested that she allow some time for them both to calm down and then to ask what her child was thinking at the time. What made him think his response was okay? Why would he think to do that? And then, ask him what he was going to do to remedy the situation. She asked me if I wanted a written apology. I told her to please ask her son what he thought would be the right thing to do. If he wanted to apologize, that was fine, but it had to be his idea. An apology without sincerity is not an apology.

How many times have you had personal encounters which made you think a person just wasn't sincere? Was it a disgruntled sales clerk who told you “Have a nice day” when you know she would rather have been texting her boyfriend? Maybe it was when you knew you were having a bad hair day and your mother told you looked great? Or maybe an older child pushed her younger sister down on the playground and yelled “sorry” over her shoulder as she laughed and ran away?

As Montessori parents and educators, we want our children to grow up happy, healthy, and responsible. We want them to be well-adjusted, caring and concerned members of adult society. We teach them to say please and thank you at an early age. However, teaching them the words is not enough. How do we teach a child about sincerity? It is a difficult task! We must teach them how to feel and care. We must teach them to not simply go through the motions, but to put themselves in the position of others.

Thoughts on Teaching Values for Montessori Educators: Apologies, Sincerity, and Modeling Behavior

Because children learn from their environment, modeling behaviors is crucial. Children are very perceptive. When adults demonstrate respect to others around them, the child sees and emulates that behavior. If the child sees that you respect people in the home, but show disrespect to others outside the home, that too can become the standard operating procedure.

Setting a good example is important, but it goes farther than that. Giving children the words to recognize their own thoughts and feelings and those of others can nurture understanding, empathy, and compassion. Ask children questions that help them understand their own behaviors.

  • How do you think grandma felt when you gave her a hug today?
  • How do you feel when someone is kind to you?
  • How would you feel if someone said “thank you” for a gift, but then threw it aside with the rest of the wrapping paper trash?
  • What could you have said or done differently?
  • What do you think you can do to remedy the situation?
  • Do you know why your words were hurtful?

My friend’s son later came online himself and apologized for his behavior. He told me he didn't realize it was me and we had a very brief discussion on needing to think how his words and actions are perceived by others. I know he felt badly; he had acted on sheer impulse and regretted it.

It is important that we as adults take time to talk to our children about our own values and how we feel about things. We need to use daily occurrences as teachable moments so that our children grow up strong, moral, and happy.

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As much as possible, NAMC’s web blog reflects the Montessori curriculum as provided in its teacher training programs. We realize and respect that Montessori schools are unique and may vary their schedules and offerings in accordance with the needs of their individual communities. We hope that our readers will find our articles useful and inspiring as a contribution to the global Montessori community.
© North American Montessori Center - originally posted in its entirety at Montessori Teacher Training on Thursday, November 15, 2012.


  1. Very good topic — additionally, I try to teach my own children not to abbreviate their manners (ie: thank YOU, while looking at the person, rather than a 'thanks' while their attention is elsewhere).
    And, for those that are on the receiving end of an apology, I try to teach that it's important not to say "that's OK", when often the initial action causing the need for an apology isn't really OK. But rather, to say "I accept your apology" or even "I forgive you (if they do; if not, they communicate that they need some time to do so). It's more sincere, expresses one's gratitude for the apology, and doesn't continue to justify the poor behavior.

  2. You make an excellent point of telling children that it doesn't have to be "OK" when someone apologizes. I have used your exact words in my own Montessori classrooms as well as at home. Well said!

  3. Do you have additional ideas if the child has trouble gathering empathy for the other person?

  4. One way Montessori teachers help model empathy is by asking children how they think someone else must feel. "How do you think Erin feels after you took the blue shovel away from her when she was playing with it? How would you feel if Erin had done that to you?" Another way to understand the thoughts and feelings of others is to use the Peace Rose technique or by having a Peace Corner where both parties come together to have a dialog about how they feel. For more information on the Peace Corner and Peace Rose, please visit:


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