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Types of Consequences - Options for a Montessori Home

The other day I was talking about a hard moment that happened between me and Gus with my mom. Gus had done something out of anger and I mentioned it to her. She replied, "We'll what was his consequence?" This sparked a conversation with her about Montessori, consequences, and our approach to those hard moments. 

What was his consequence? The answer, a natural one. Gus had hurt me, I had to excuse myself, we could no longer continue our activity until I was done collecting myself. This moment of time gave him the space to consider what happened, feel horrible, and then we had some connection following. Sorry, I'm being vague about the details because I don't think we need to share every 3-year-old tantrum details. 

Montessori parenting takes a different approach to discipline. Here's a look at types of consequences and how they might be used in a Montessori home.

Anyway,  this conversation got me thinking about the types of consequences that parents can impose and where they fit in a Montessori home. Here are some choices, and some thoughts:

Natural Consequences 

Natural consequences are consequences that come naturally from a situation. These are not adult imposed but just simply happen as a result of a person's behavior. For example, imagine that you have asked your child not to run down a particular sidewalk but your child does anyway and you don't intervene. Then your child trips, falls, and scrapes their knee. Here the natural consequence for not listening was the knee scrape. 
  • Try to rely on natural consequences where you can 
  • Natural consequences have been the best and most effective teacher of limits for my children 
  • These are trickier to impose when it involves hurting other people, especially other children. The natural consequence might be that the friend no longer wants to play, or that the friend also lashes out (physically or verbally) which doesn't solve much among children. 
  • Easier to rely on if you are in a prepared environment which naturally has built in limits (like a limited number of something available, or materials that they aren't ready for out of reach
  • Sometimes the natural consequence is too severe to allow it to happen. For example, running in the road, the natural consequence might be getting hit by a car. We can't as parents sit by and let that consequence occur
Montessori parenting takes a different approach to discipline. Here's a look at types of consequences and how they might be used in a Montessori home.

Logical Consequences

Logical consequences are adult imposed consequences that arise from the situation that has occurred. They are directly related to the behavior in some way. Thinking of the running on the sidewalk example again, a logical consequence for not listening might be that your child needs to hold your hand as you walk instead of being left to walk alone.
  • Logical consequences can be used in a Montessori environment, but not always (try to think of how to change your environment to allow for natural consequences)
  • Often used in matters of safety or in situations where natural consequences may not be apparent for the child (or happen to slowly to be effective)
  • Logical consequences are also something that work well for older children
  • Need to be directly related to the behavior and need to happen in the moment 
  • Adult needs to stay neutral, calm, and respectful - these do not rely on shaming a child

Imposed Consequences

Imposed consequences are those traditionally used and could be called punishments. These are things that are adult imposed but are not related to the behavior. If we go back to the running example, an imposed punishment would include making your child sit in a time out for not listening to you when you asked them to walk. 
  • Imposed consequences include time-out, shaming your child, physical punishments, extra chores or other unrelated adult created work 
  • These have no place in a Montessori environment - home or school. Dr. Montessori was very clear that these were not effective in helping a child, not respectful toward a child, and that they should be avoided
These consequences are not the only way that Montessori parents can place limits on our children. But that's a whole other conversation! 

Have you seen the power of using natural consequences? 


Ines said…
I like this a lot. With natural consequences, would you point them out - such as, ‘look you did not listen, now you scraped your knee’, or would you not comment and hope they make the connection themselves?

We have this ‘issue’ at the moment with my 4 year old - he still loves his bobby car (that he got for his 1st birthday) to drive inside - and he loves it. (He has a balance and a pedal bike and a scooter for outside - and a wobbel board for inside. ) He is now however so big and ‘strong’ that he damages (not on purpose, but just accidentally) walls, furniture etc with the car in our house. We talked about it the other day and told him that we might have to put it away/give it away because he is too big for it and our house gets damaged; but I know he loves it so much... any thoughts how we could manage this? Thank you.
Danel said…
I would just like to know :

If you warn a child before hand that e.g. something will be taken away if they e.g. throw it does this still count as a natural consequence? As it is directed linked to an action?

Or if food is thrown on the ground then it should be cleaned up by the thrower and that then there won't be any dessert? (This in a senario where the child isn't forced to eat the food but just decided that they do not want it on their plate and has been given an alternative place to put it if they did not want it)

I'm a little confused if this is adult imposed or not?

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