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March 24, 2023

Can Montessori Parents Correct their Child? Thoughts on Teaching and Correction

Children are amazing. They have all these powers to soak in the environment around them like a sponge. They learn to talk, walk, run, and negotiate all without adults needing to do much instruction. For most kids, these are skills they will learn simply by watching the people around them. That is incredible. We adults, and even older children, do not have these abilities. 

But, these powers can be misleading even for Montessori parents. Sometimes as parents we watch these amazing little people and attribute skills, understanding, and knowledge to them that they just don't have. So when they make mistakes, or have annoying behavior, our first instinct is to correct them. "Stop interrupting me, I'm on the phone." "Don't jump on the couch!" "Get your hands out the way if you're using that knife." 

"We are so anxious to help, to us it seems the burden of growth and development is so great that we must do all we can to make the pathway easy. And so our love may easily overreach itself and by providing too many urges, too many cautions and corrections." Maria Montessori, Maria Montessori Speaks to Parents


Montessori child slices and transfers carrots with a sharp knife and large bowl after being taught a lesson in her Montessori home.

While we might do all of these things from a place of love, we need to stop and think - have we really taught the skill we are aiming to stop? I mean really, have we explicitly taught the skill? Or have we just hoped they would pick up the skill? Or have we assumed they understand? As Montessori parents, we need to know that our job is not to simply correct but to teach. 

Correction is a reaction to mistakes, but as Montessori parents we want to respond. This response comes in a few different ways. 

How Can We Teach as Montessori Parents? 

Our response to mistakes, annoyances, or our child's lack of knowledge isn't always going to look like sitting them down and lecturing them. Instead keep in mind in Montessori environments teaching should happen through:
  • The Environment: The prepared environment is key to a child's success. The environment has to provide natural consequences and self correcting materials. Child learn through activity in their environment and when we provide opportunities for that learning, we will see fewer mistakes. "A child who is free to act not only seed to gather sensible impressions from his environment but he also shows a love for exactitude in the carrying out of his actions." Maria Montessori, The Secret of Childhood

  • The Senses: Children, especially young children, learn best through their senses. When they can see, hear, or touch a mistake they will learn from it themselves. When this learning comes from within, it will be truly learned. So let the senses do their jobs and teach a child about this world. "If a child makes a mistake, you can do nothing about it, for surely he must be able to see the can draw his attention to the mistake through his motor sense. Let him touch around the ends...he will surely notice the mistake." Maria Montessori, 1946 London Lectures (this is in the context of a material that is being used incorrectly)

    Elementary child peels carrots at kitchen counter in Montessori home

  • Developmentally Appropriate Presentations: Give a lesson! Don't assume that your child will understand how to use a new material or how to engage in practical work just because it seems easy or they have seen you do it. Teach by doing, show them slowly. The younger the child the more simple this can be. Add only necessary language. Don't leave them guessing.

  • Grace and Courtesy Lessons: Teach social skills explicitly through grace and courtesy lessons, don't assume knowledge because it seems so obvious. Instead make these little lessons a part of your life and know that social skills are learned just like everything else 

Montessori parents should teach by teaching, not by correcting. With these four tips, you can address the mistakes your children make to help them learn

Montessori parents are going to sometimes need to correct their children from time to time. But, don't rely on correction as your only method of teaching. Teach by teaching! 


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