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January 31, 2024

Montessori Kids: Rule Making in the Elementary Years

The elementary years, or the second plane of development as we call them in Montessori, are marked with many unique characteristics. One of the major characteristics of the second plane of development is the immense interest in social relationships. These kids are so social. Their brains are wired to move around in little packs learning how to be in community with others. Their friendships become important, they start to explore social dynamics, and test out social rules. They also have a strong interest in justice, morals, and fairness. In fact, one of the first signs of the second plane in my family has been the phrase "that's not fair" popping up repeatedly! 

Why do Elementary Kids Love Rules?

The combination of these two characteristics create a super interesting phase for some second plane kids - an obsession with rules. I've seen in my kids this peak between age 5.5+ (when they start to transition to the second plane) and around 7.5-years-old. All of a sudden rules become so important to them. They want to know all the rules of a game, they want to create rules for you to follow, there's suddenly so many rules when they are interacting with friends. So many rules. 

"You can't do that! It's the rule." "You stand here, if I do XWZ I get a a point." "He's not playing by the rules." It really can feel like an endless focus, and we are deep in the middle of this phase right now with my third kid. Here are  three tips on how I handle this phase as a Montessori parent. 

Tips to Handle all the Elementary Kid Rules

While your elementary kid might be super into the rules, sometimes they people around them aren't as receptive. And when multiple kids in that social pack are all trying to make rules at the same time, it can become darn right annoying, frustrating, and sometimes a little comical. 

Create Rule Making Opportunities

Sometimes it's just best to let them get it out of their system. So, play a game where they get to make up all the rules. This might be sportsy, or it might just be with art or small toys. But give them the opportunity to tell you how to play. And, don't be surprised if the rules aren't fair, the rules changes, or they work to their advantage. They know what fair is, and right and wrong - they need opportunities to feel what it's like to have that power. Just go with it, let them try out this new area of interest. 

Provide Opportunities for Control

Give them control of other areas of their life. Make sure they have lots of opportunities for making meaningful decisions and taking control. Let them plan a going-out, give them control over a menu choice, or the freedom to decide how to spend their time. They need opportunities to feel heard, like they can make choices and decisions. These do not need to be big, life altering things; but more and more they need to be in control over their day-to-day lives. 

Step Away from the Group

At this age you need to take a big step back from their social interactions. A group of lower elementary kids is going to spend a lot of time making up rules and squabbling over rules. It is a normal part of second plane of development and their social interactions. They might even spend more time on the rules than playing whatever game - the rules are the fun, the rules are the learning, the rules are everything. Just let it be, give them the space to work out social dynamics, push boundaries, follow others, and lead others. This is the second plane's biggest big work. 

Discover how the Montessori approach explains the obsession elementary-aged kids have with rule-making and social dynamics. Explore tips and ideas on handling this developmental phase.

Rule making, following, and social games is such a fun, frustrating, and unique phase of the second plane of development and Montessori parenting. It can be hard to try to sit back and enjoy this seemingly endlessly bossy little human, but they do eventually get over this obsession. Ride it out, give them opportunities to practice, and try to find the human in the constant rules! 

Have you noticed this phase in your elementary aged kid?!

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