Saturday, April 26, 2008

Why Aren't My Students Normalized? Deviations in the Normalization Process

NAMC montessori classroom why aren't students normalized deviations sad boyIf you're a Montessori teacher like me, you've probably caught yourself at times wondering "Why aren't these children normalized yet?" After all, I'm doing everything I've been taught to do. I speak in a quiet and respectful voice, my Montessori classroom is beautiful and the environment is well-prepared. I present my lessons using a 3-period model and I've spent much time working on and creating beautiful materials. So why won't Julia share the red shovel? Why does Jason still cry when mommy leaves? Why does Sofia continue to run and skip around the classroom instead of using walking feet?

Dr. Montessori referred to these misbehaviors as "deviations", or detours from normalization. The deviations are created when development is not allowed to proceed in a normal way. If the misbehavior is not corrected, it will only become worse as time progresses.

"Why Aren't My Students Normalized?" Deviations in the Normalization Process

Dr. Montessori classified deviations in two categories: deliberate (adult-fostered) and non-deliberate (those not fostered by adults). Deliberate deviations are caused by the lack of purposeful activities in the home and/or school environment. These children feel the need to be constantly entertained. They are continually bouncing between toys, TV, and computer time to alleviate boredom, but nothing holds their interest for very long. These children may also have the tendency to cling to a parent or older sibling well beyond the developmental plane of letting go. This is because their independence has been denied and they are unable to recognize themselves as a separate person.

There are several deviations that are not fostered by adults and are often seen as "normal" stages of development. Dr. Montessori referred to these as deviations as fugues and barriers (The Secret of Childhood) and deviations that are demonstrated by the strong and the weak (The Absorbent Mind).

  • Fugues – A fugue is when a child "runs away" from a task. While they are never still, they lack purpose. They begin a work, leave it unfinished, and rush to another.
  • Barriers – A barrier is a deviation which is strong enough to keep a child from engaging in his surroundings. It may be disguised as disobedience or obstinacy. It manifests itself as dependence, possessiveness, power struggles, feelings of inferiority, fear, lying, and psychosomatic illness.
  • Strong – Being strong means being able to overcome obstacles. When children are not strong, they are prone to aggression, violence, rage, insubordination. They can be destructive and unable to concentrate. They are termed naughty, disobedient. Dr. Montessori observed that "They have difficulty in coordinating their hands. They are generally noisy, unkind, and often greedy at the table."
  • Weak – Children who are demonstrating a deviation in the weak give in to unfavorable conditions. They cry easily, are passive, manipulative, and easily bored. Rather than do something for themselves, they exert effort in trying to get others to do it for them. They are afraid of the world around them and cling to adults.

NAMC montessori classroom why aren't students normalized deviations girl and teacher

So how is an adult to help a child overcome these deviations and help them along the path to normalization? Dr. Montessori stated that first the Montessori teacher must practice patience rather than anger. An adult who is impatient or angry cannot build confidence or independence in a child. She recommended interrupting the misbehavior because it is an obstacle to development, and to offer interesting and purposeful activities to re-channel that energy in a productive way. She believed the only way to re-direct misbehavior was to return to the work cycle. Once the child has returned to a state of normalcy, the adult must not interrupt while the child is focused and concentrating. By observing and protecting those moments, they will become more frequent and the child will not have to deviate as much. His energy will have found a new outlet in his work.

More in this Blog Series:

Related NAMC Blogs:
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 Saturday, April 26, 2008.


  1. Hi, I have a question. Is the lack of respect to people and limits a deliberate or a non-deliberate deviation? Did Maria Montessori write anything about this?
    Greetings from Spain,


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