Thursday, July 09, 2009

Montessori Parenting: Logical and Natural Consequences

When my son was in kindergarten, I used to dread play dates. Everything would be fine until it was time to leave. My son would cry, whine, bargain for more time, and refuse to get in the car. The last straw was when his grandfather went to pick him up. Grandfather found him hiding in a closet, and had to carry him to the car, crying. Something, obviously, had to be done!

Punishment & Reward
Dr. Montessori believed that using rewards & punishment inhibits the development of self-discipline. Rewards and punishment deny children the opportunity to make their own decisions and to be responsible for their own behavior. Rather than learning how to analyze situations and make wise decisions, children may make decisions based on what an adult might do to (punishment) or for (reward) them.

Logical and Natural Consequences in the Montessori Environment.
Our goal as Montessori parents is to raise independent, productive citizens of the world. The purpose of defining and understanding natural and logical consequences is to motivate and allow children to make responsible decisions, not to force their submission.

Montessori Parenting: Logical and Natural Consequences

Natural consequences - children learn from the natural order of the physical world.
  • Example: If you leave the gate open, the dog will likely run away.
Logical consequences - children learn from the reality of the social order.
  • Example: If you accidently break a neighbor’s window, it still must be replaced, and you must use your own money (or work) to pay for it.
Setting up Consequences
Sonnie McFarland (Shining Mountains Press) suggests these steps when setting up a system based on natural and logical consequences.
  • Discuss acceptable behavior prior to the event.
  • Talk about what it will look like for the child to successfully manage the experience.
  • Express confidence that the child can be successful.
  • Talk about what the consequence will be if the child is not successful. (It must be related to the experience.)
  • Get the child’s agreement.
  • If the child is successful, express appreciation.
  • If the child is not successful, calmly and firmly apply the consequence. (Do not nag or lecture!)
  • Express confidence that the child will be successful the next time.
I felt sure I could employ these techniques to help my son develop self-discipline at the end of play dates. One day, when we were having a calm, peaceful afternoon, I brought up how his behavior at the end of play dates was inappropriate and if he had any thoughts on how make it a more enjoyable experience for everyone. We role-played what the end of a play date should like. We discussed logical consequences. He decided he shouldn’t have play dates for a while if he behaved inappropriately. I reminded him that he was going to have a play date the next day and I was sure that he could do this. We developed a mantra that went something like this:

Mom: And when it’s time go …
Son: There will be no fussing or crying

As we approached the front door the next day, we repeated our mantra together. When it was time to leave, my child looked at me, nodded, and politely helped clean up and thanked the mother for a lovely time. We were all pleasantly surprised!

When we got to the car, I told him how much I appreciated how peacefully and happily the play date had ended and that I was sure he could continue his behavior in the future. Our mantra worked well for the next several years, as a gentle reminder of expectations for behavior, and an unspoken reminder of consequences.
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, July 9, 2009.


  1. i really enjoy this blog. Thanks. I am wondering if you could offer advice on dressing. My daughter turns two next week and I am trying to encourage her to undress/dress herself as much as she is able. However sometimes dressing/undressing is horrendous whether I do it for her, or ask her to do it (with my help). She does not want to do it. I'm on the verge of doing a sticker reward chart to see if this would help. This is obviously not in line with Monti philosophy. Do you have any suggestions?

  2. Sigh, my story goes exactly like yours, except for the end part.

    As we approached the front door the next day, we repeated our mantra together. When it was time to leave, my child looked at me, scowled, stomped out of the room, and proceeded to scream, yell, and cry. She kicked her feet, screamed at the top of her lungs, and grabbed onto furniture if I tried to pick her up. Usually I'd end up carrying her out of the house, kicking and screaming, because no amount of calm talking would result in my child leaving or being escorted from the house. It went without saying (but I said it anyway) that there would be no play dates for a while. Maybe a week, or two, or a month, or in the case of one friend at whose house the tantrums were exceptionally severe, we took a six month break. These demonstrations of strong will began at age two, and they still happen now at age 5 and a half. Your story sounds lovely, but your child and my child obviously possess very different temperaments.

  3. Hello and thank you for your kind comments. You pose an excellent question about toddler dressing (and undressing). When I sat down to respond to your question, I realized it would be best shared as a new blog. It will be posted shortly.

    Wishing you the best with your toddler,

  4. Christine, I can empathize with your situation. Have you read Jane Nelsen's book, Positive Discipline or Children: The Challenge by Rudolf Dreikur? I wrote a brief summary of what they have to say in your situation in a new blog: Montessori Parenting: Further Thoughts on Consequences and Positive Discipline Techniques.

    I wish you well on your parenting journey!


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