Thursday, April 26, 2012

Freedom and Inner Discipline

Why does it seem like children from the cleanest homes, with the tidiest clothes and hair, are sometimes the worst behaved?  Think "Lord of the Flies."  Once the plane full of English school kids crash-landed they quickly turned into savages.  They weren't civilized once they were removed from civilization.

These are the kinds of things I think about while people watching at the playground, grocery store or school pick-up.  When we see children acting like savages remember what Dr. Ray Guarendi says, "If the cookies come out burnt, do you blame the cookie?"  In other words, how has the child been raised to behave by the adults around him?  Do my children behave like savages when I'm not right there correcting them?

Maria Montessori talked about the interdependence of knowledge and the will.   Liberty is the freedom to choose what is right and good--not evil.  So we need to help small children know what is good and also help them to develop inner discipline and self-control.  The hard part is that it takes so much work on our part!  But it also means that we can develop alongside our children if we try to grow in self control and be good examples.

Montessori believed we need to give children real freedom, including the freedom to make bad choices.

"It's a risk.  In giving freedom we are allowing him to exercise his will within boundaries.  Practice some trust.  Let him do this in a safe environment.  Let him learn about consequences." (from my Philosophy Album, Belmont University)
And that's often where the mess comes in!


  1. I do blame the cookie.

  2. This is my favorite post yet! Although I have to admit, the cookie quote made me cringe a little. Is it fair to blame parents for the bad choices a child may make in life? I hope I can improve my training skills before all my kids are "burned."

  3. Thank you for your comment! I realized after I had posted this that my message may be interpreted that way. I didn't mean to imply that when children behave badly it's always the parents' fault. We need to help form their character in purposeful ways. The environment we provide can foster independence, even at the cost of tidiness! I was hoping to emphasize the idea of taking risks a little more, of fighting the "control freak" side we all can have. Of helping our children grow in their ability to make choices, little by little. We can only discover the person our child is becoming when we step back and watch a little. (And yes the Dr. Bob comment was my dear hubbie, doing some lighthearted teasing!)

  4. When my kids were little I prayed that I would have strong, independent kids: and I got 'em!
    I was amazed by the helicopter parents I would see at the playground and wonder sometimes what will happen to those kids as they grow and failures happen. How will they cope with that rejection? How will they handle losing? Not well, by all accounts. So poorly, in fact, that our city school system WILL NOT fail a child. They just march them right through the school regardless of their grades or level of mastery. The educational system here is in shambles because of it.
    So, I think letting kids experience their world through trial and error, especially in places where they are not really going to get hurt or hurt anyone, is a valuable teaching tool.
    Thanks for the great post. I am loving this blog. It makes me wish I still had little ones at home.

  5. I think we as parents do need to be responsible for our kids' behavior and make them correct wrongdoings.. They may make some bad choices and embarrass themselves-or us. But how we handle things after that is so important. Also, we can't let bad behavior slide at home and then expect angels when we go out. If your cookies are burned on occasion, it doesn't mean you are a bad cook just watch a little closer next time. If you exercise discipline with the painstaking battles at home, your kids are primed to behave well when they go out. Also, make cookies often! : )