Friday, October 18, 2013

Encouraging Positive Behavior in the Montessori Environment

A misbehaving child is a discouraged child.” –Ruldof Dreikurs

namc montessori encouraging positive behavior two boys laughing on grass

Imagine a day when nothing goes right.
  • Your alarm clock did not go off.
  • You are out of coffee.
  • You get a speeding ticket rushing to an early parent meeting, only to learn the parent had to cancel at the last minute.
  • There is nothing but dry soda crackers and water for snack.
  • Somehow, both the Montessori Bead Cabinet and the Long Division Material get knocked over.
  • Someone left the lid off the crickets meant for feeding Mr. Jumpers, the class frog, and the classroom is full of tiny, noisy insects.
  • A stomach virus is spreading through the school like wildfire, and your assistant has been out sick for 3 days.
  • Your field trip is Friday and you are still missing three drivers.
  • An angry parent confronts you after school in the parking lot.

Sounds rough, doesn't it? A day like this would leave you feeling short tempered, and the last thing you would need is for someone to yell at you or make you feel inadequate. Everyone has bad days, and children are not exempt.

Montessori Values: Encouraging Positive Behavior

Often when a child is misbehaving, we try to impose our own beliefs of how he should be acting or reacting before we truly try to understand the situation from his point of view. Rather than focusing on encouraging positive behavior, we tend to focus on discouraging bad behavior. Although it seems that both approaches would bring about the same desired results, the differences between encouragement and discouragement are great.

Austrian psychotherapist Alfred Adler believed that every person has a deep desire to belong. Like Montessori, Adler believed in the whole person; however, Adler focused not on how people learn, but how and why we behave as we do. Adler proposed that encouragement develops feelings of love and makes the child feel he is capable.

namc montessori encouraging positive behavior girl and boy hugging

In contrast, discouraging remarks reinforce misbehavior. Statements such as “If you had tried harder,” “You are too little,” and “That is too hard; let me do it” reinforce a sense of unworthiness. In response, the child may think, “If you think I cannot do it, why should I try?” For a more positive result, try encouraging remarks, which by their nature enhance a positive sense of self and lead to a greater sense of dignity and cooperation.

In the above scenario, what would make you feel better? Having an understanding partner who listens to your concerns and who helps when asked — maybe by taking the children to practice and picking up dinner on the way home? Providing a gentle hug and positive words? These are loving and encouraging ways that help you feel appreciated and capable of meeting tomorrow’s challenges. The same encouragement goes a long way in helping a child manage his own behavior.
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 Friday, October 18, 2013.


  1. Thank you, I needed this post-- especially today!

  2. Thanks for your comment. I work in a Montessori preschool, 2 to 6 years, and my colleagues and I work very hard to encourage positive behaviour, especially with our challenging children. I totally agree that what we say to children is vital to their confidence, to persevere with challenges or to even try activities that are challenging.



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