Friday, March 07, 2008

Peaceful Solutions to Bullying in the Montessori Classroom

peaceful solutions to bullying NAMC montessori classroom two boys talking
I was shocked last week when my assistant came back from walking my Montessori class to art and told me that one of my third grade boys had punched one of the second grade boys three times in the stomach. Apparently, this happened while he was holding the door open for the rest of the class! I couldn't believe it! Whatever possessed him to do such a thing and why would he think it was acceptable to do this? His answer was not a surprise, but still alarming: "My older brother does it to me all the time."

It got me to thinking about behaviors at home versus behavior at school. I know that boys usually play more aggressively and more physically than girls. My own son has loved to wrestle and rough-house since he was very young, though now he's almost as big as I am and needs reminders to play gentle with Mommie. I watch the boys on the playground play tag, football, capture-the-flag and marvel at the sheer physical stamina they display. Yet, hitting and other physical demonstrations are not acceptable either in my home or in my Montessori classroom and playground.

Peaceful Solutions to Bullying in the Montessori Classroom

Every school I've taught at has had a "Stop!" rule. If someone is doing something to you that you do not like, all you need to do is say "Stop" and the other person is required to stop whatever it is, no questions asked. If the behavior continues, the child is then to come tell a teacher. We tell the children that this is not tattling, but it's to make the teacher aware of the situation so he or she can intervene on their behalf.

Getting a child (or even an adult) to understand that we don't hit (or hit back) can be difficult if they've been taught at home that it's acceptable. We need to explain to them that hitting doesn't work.
  • Hitting often doesn't make the problem go away, and in fact, can make it worse.
  • Violence only leads to more violence.
  • The person hitting back is usually the one who gets caught, not the person that hit first.
  • Hitting, even in jest, can cause serious, albeit, unintended injuries.

We need to give children ways to get out of situations where they feel they need to strike back.
  • Remember the Stop! Rule.
  • Find an adult and ask for help.
  • Use the peacemaking words and techniques that have been practiced at school (and at home).
  • Tell the person you are going to walk away.
  • If the situation requires you to defend yourself physically, give a verbal warning "I don't want to fight you, but if you keep pushing me, I will."

Choosing not to fight or hit takes courage. In truth, it's very hard to fight the urge not to hit back, especially when you are angry. Children need lots of practice at peacemaking. Role-play different scenarios so that they understand what they can do in many situations. It can also help them recognize things that really get them angry and give them useful solutions when they find themselves getting angry.

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, March 7, 2008.


  1. Oh, this one really hits home (literally!) I remember a boy in one of my classes who always "hit back" if someone hit him. When I asked him why, he told me that he father told him to always hit back!

    How were we supposed to compete with that?? Parent education goes a long way in this - a lot of parents still subscribe to the old model of "hit back or you'll look like a wimp".

  2. Lori, I found that once again, Dr. Montessori says it best: "The training of the (parent) is something far more than a learning of ideas. It includes the training of character; it is a preparation of the spirit."

    In an effort to promote parent participation, we must continue to nurture their spirit, as well, and offer parenting classes in positive discipline techniques, keeping in mind that while we may not be able to change the parents, we do have a huge influence on the children.

  3. Yes, you're totally right. The children can end up educating their parents as to a better way to end violence.

    It was always fascinating to me that parents could see the value of a Montessori education but not totally commit to the values of Montessori education.


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