Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Knowing when to Intervene in the Montessori Environment — Respectful Behavior

“The environment itself will teach the child, if every error he makes is manifest to him, without the intervention of a parent of teacher, who should remain a quiet observer of all that happens.” — Maria Montessori, The Absorbent Mind, page 278.

NAMC knowing when to intervene in the montessori environment

Dr. Montessori told us that we should not intervene or interrupt a child if our intent is to praise, advise, or restrain. In other words, we should not interrupt spontaneous learning and concentration. It is disrespectful to the child and may cause him embarrassment, mortification, shame, or even loss of interest. There are, however, times when intervention is necessary. The Montessori teacher knows when and how to intervene.

Intervening in the Montessori Environment: Knowing When to Get Involved

It all comes down to respect and safety. Dr. Montessori advised us to “intervene and reprimand the children whenever they do something rude or careless that has no good impulse or does not lead to perfection.” (Montessori, 1925) She cites specific examples such as:

  • Passing in front of a person without asking permission
  • Dragging chairs rather than carrying them
  • Slamming doors
  • Throwing trash on the floor
  • Leaving materials out

In instances such as these, the teacher should immediately approach the child and offer a respectful alternative to the behavior, such as “Trash belongs in the waste basket,” or “Please put your materials away when you are finished.” To reinforce the desired behaviors, the teacher later models the behaviors through role-playing lessons either in small groups or with the whole class during circle time.

NAMC knowing when to intervene in the montessori environment at circle time

Dr. Montessori also warned us that interventions should occur before the environment becomes disorderly. A quiet, respectful intervention by the teacher quells a behavior before a larger group of children participate as well, and helps keeps a calm, peaceful environment.

The other time immediate intervention is called for is when there is a direct threat to the children’s safety. Our primary goal as Montessori teachers is always the safety and well-being of the children. Inappropriate behavior that is destructive or unsafe to the individual or others requires immediate adult intervention. A simple “Stop” will get attention. Using negatives like “Don’t slam the door” often get results that are opposite of what you desire. Destructive or hazardous behavior must not be allowed to continue in the Montessori environment. A wise teacher will respectfully redirect behavior to that which is more appropriate.
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 Tuesday, September 17, 2013.


  1. I think it is also important to say that the teacher needs to intervene when the child is being disrespectful to others or the teacher.


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