Children want to be loved and want the people around them to be happy. Most will not willfully misbehave unless they are angry. However, it is easy to forget a long list of rules. The best way to help a child behave is to remind him of acceptable choices before he makes a mistake. One way in which we do this is laying out the groundwork and expectations for the day during Circle. Another is to take breaks or time-outs when an uncomfortable situation might otherwise escalate. We give older students daily opportunities to monitor behavior among their peers, and the sense of responsibility helps them to learn to keep themselves on the right track more easily.
Long lists of rules are hard to remember, but a brief set of the core expectations is easy to recall and quite necessary. For this reason, we teach our children the Four R's:
Respect: Children are taught respect not only for each other, but also for themselves, our materials, and their surroundings.
Responsibility: Children know they must put away any work they take out. Sometimes they have work out when a parent comes to pick them up. Please be patient (and proud) while you wait for them to put away.
Reserve Judgement: Essentially, this means to quietly listen until the speaker is finished before asking questions or giving comments. For example, when we are conducting Circle, we ask the children, teachers, and parents reserve judgement. Please be courteous and non-disruptive if you must interrupt our Circle. Some Montessori schools lock the door until circle is over!
Results: This is the fruit of the first three R's. It speaks for itself.
The Three Steps
We teach the child to first ask, "Why are you doing that?" The answer may explain the offender's innocence and the problem is over. It may have been an accident for which the offender readily apologizes.
If this is not the case, the next step is to ask the offender to "Please stop! I don't like that."
If the child is still being annoyed,the next choice is to walk away or ignore the offender. This step, however, may be just what the offender wants in the first place.
In this case, the child's next option is to ask a teacher for help. The teacher will simply ask if the child did the Three Steps and will listen if they need to be repeated, coaching along the way.
We do not believe that "punishment" produces positive changes. We do believe in helping the child internalize alternative and appropriate behavioral alternatives.
We do not believe that we have ever had to turn away a child, but we have had to turn away parents who have refused to recognize and help correct their children's behavioral difficulties.
Our usual disciplinary methods at Stewart are private and group discussion, reminders to individuals of expected behavior and/or isolation of the troubled child, followed by a discussion of appropriate alternative behaviors.
- Talk to student(s) away from other students. Always speak at eye-level in a non-blaming voice.
- Ask student to write an essay to help her to remember the better way of behaving. Alternatively, ask the student to spend some "thinking time" to think of something that will help him / remember not to repeat the behavior in the future.
- Spend alone time / make-up work time during part of recess
- Arrange conferences with parents.