Positive Discipline

Blog: Positive Discipline Workshop

Positive disciplineThanks to generous support from the TMS Annual Fund, I was able to attend a two-day workshop last month in New York City on Positive Discipline in the Montessori Classroom. It was held at the Westside Montessori School and led by renowned facilitator, Chip DeLorenzo, along with other Montessorians around the country. We had the opportunity to participate in many discussion-based sessions from which I gained valuable knowledge and insight about effective teaching tools. These tools build responsibility, independence, motivation and empathy within classroom communities. I would like to share some of these with our TMS community (notes from the workshop have been used).

Positive Discipline is a program based on the work of Alfred Adler and Rudolf Dreikurs (20th century psychiatrists and educators) who believed that children could become responsible, respectful and resourceful members of their community. Positive Discipline teaches adults to use both kindness and firmness that is neither punitive nor permissive.

Children who feel secure and trustworthy can learn to cooperate rather than be manipulative, especially when they know they can trust adults who mean what they say and who follow-through with respect.

Adults often use consequences to control or punish, which can be one reason why children see consequences as punishment. Follow-through is an effective and alternative way to avoid this dilemma. With younger children, non-verbal follow-through is more effective. This tool works best with repeated behaviors.

Steps for Follow-Through

  1. Find a time when you and the child can give the matter your full attention.
  2. Have a friendly discussion and share information about what is going on for both the parent/teacher and the child regarding the problem.
  3. Make a decision (with the child, if appropriate) about what you will do in the future.
  4. When the issue arises again, the parent/teacher simply follows through with a brief statement of fact, such as, “We had an agreement,” or “It’s time to go inside.”

Suggestions for Effective Follow-Through

  1. Agreed-upon solutions or consequences should be logical, respectful and helpful long-term.
  2. When appropriate, be specific about deadlines and consequences.
  3. Keep comments very concise. (“I notice you didn’t_______. Would you please do that now.”)
  4. In response to objections ask, “What was our agreement?”
  5. In response to further objections, be quiet and use nonverbal communication to follow through: point to the item that needs to be picked up; smile knowingly; take the child kindly by hand and lead them to/away from the issue.
  6. When the child concedes to the agreement, express honest appreciation. (“Thank you for keeping our agreement.”)

Traps that Defeat Follow-Through

  1. Wanting children or teens to have the same priorities as adults.
  2. Getting into judgements and criticism instead of sticking to the issue.
  3. Not getting agreements in advance (including specified time deadlines when applicable, for instance).
  4. Discussing the issue right after it happens. (The positive solution: Find a time to relax, and then discuss it with your child in order to come to an agreement.)

Follow-through simply means acting upon what you said, without using lecture, constant reminders (nagging) or punishment. By using this tool, in a kind and firm manner, parents/teachers find it possible to meet the needs of the situation while maintaining dignity and respect for all concerned, and for the situation.

Acting, rather than talking, helps students understand that for every opportunity or freedom they have, there is a responsibility attached. For example, a child has the opportunity to play with a toy or work with a material respectfully. If the child’s behavior is disrespectful then he/she would lose the privilege to use the toy or the material. This agreement is only effective if the consequence is enforced with kind and firm follow-through. The child will have another opportunity to use the toy or the material again upon demonstrating the responsible behavior needed to use it with respect.

For reading materials on Positive Discipline, please contact Mrs Sutapa Bakshi, TMS Children’s House Guide.

Power Struggles

It happens a lot at parent-teacher conferences. We are discussing the social and emotional development of a child at school, and a parent asks in despair, “Why does he listen at school and never listens at home? Why is it always a struggle?”

Oh, yes! The infamous power struggle!Power Struggle

First, we want for the parents to understand the developmental importance of a power struggle. A feeling of power is important to us all as a basic social and emotional need. Until the age of two the child has a little sense of self. In the child’s world the child and the parent are one. By the end of the second year, he begins to develop the concept of self as separate from a parent. Now a child learns how to make decisions for himself, exerting his power and will on people and situations, getting their own way, declaring ownership and authority.

And so the battle of wills begins that lasts throughout the childhood and into the teen years. The parents feel overpowered, overwhelmed, angry and determined to change their child’s behavior, that they perceive as “negative, frustrating, stubborn, headstrong and rebellious”. But you can turn these trying times into a rewarding growth period for both a parent and a child. Instead of viewing this kind of behavior as “bad”, look at it as a healthy sign of child’s development. Instead of trying to overpower your child, let’s try to empower him instead.

So, what exactly can you do? Happy you asked!

When your child misbehaves, decide how you are going to react. And this reaction should be the same every time. Every single time! Be calm, kind, but firm. Do not escalate your emotional response! You must respond like a broken record over and over again.

Side step the conflict (choose your battles). Your child doesn’t want to get out of the car. “Well, you can get out of the car by yourself or I will carry you.” Child’s response, “I want you to carry me upside down.” Fine! Carry him upside down! By side stepping the conflict, you are sending the message that you are not going to fight your child, but at the same time you are not giving in either.

Choices, not orders! When giving your child choices, you must make sure all choices are acceptable to you. Do not give your child a choice of sitting quietly at a restaurant or leaving, if you have no intention to do so. Choices should not include punishment as an alternative. And make sure they are not too narrow that the child senses no freedom at all.

You can find a useful way for your child to feel more powerful. Let’s say he doesn’t want to put his dishes away after dinner. Make him the “boss” of all dishes. He will then make sure everyone in the family cleans up after themselves.

Positive Discipline

Remember, the child’s need to gain control is a natural developmental stage.

These are just a few suggestions to help you. For further information, we strongly recommend the book, Positive Discipline, by Dr Jane Nelsen. This is also available as an audiobook.

What happens in the fall?

In the vegetable garden, the tasks of the day are fun and great educational experiences for the children! In the woods, explorations take us from one end to the other, comparing the size of the stream and the direction of the flowing water to other locations. We discovered that two streams join together . . . who knew? If Sustainable Science is inside, the lesson might be exploring with nature items in Mrs Baumgarten’s collection, or making a contour map of the school and stream. Join us in our findings!

Dottie's fall blog
Fall science blog

We planted some cool weather seeds, and watched the radishes grow. The spinach and lettuce did not make it. Next time, maybe!

Dottie's fall blog
Fall science blog

Children are involved in all aspects of the garden work. First we removed weeds and planted a few seeds in September. At that time we also harvested tomatoes, green beans, zinnia, marigold flowers, and sage. Sage was able to dry in several classrooms.

Dottie's fall blog
Fall science blog

In the garden, Lower Elementary record some of their tasks and observations.

Dottie's fall blog

There is always the joy of finding bugs, or amazingly, a salamander and a toad! Millipedes, sow bugs (isopods, pill bugs, rolly-pollies), earthworms, grubs and garden spiders are regular finds, which the children enjoy. We can hold the sow bugs but, of course, not the spiders.

Fall science blog
Fall science blog

Here’s the toad!

Dottie's fall blog

Flowers need bees to make new seeds!

Fall science blog

As the fall progressed, the task in the garden changed to prepare the garden for winter. The wonderful compost provides nutrition for the garden, so we emptied the compost bin, sifted the compost and added it to the garden. Some of the sections we topped with shredded leaves from Mr. Bob, and some of the sections we planted with “winter crops” of oats and peas, which will not make edible seeds, but will be turned into the soil as fertilizer in the spring.

Fall science blog
Fall science blog

When the Sustainable Science Vegetable Garden was prepped enough for the fall, we headed into the woods. The first walk was to get the lay of the land: where is the stream? Which areas are higher elevation and lower elevation? We are always observing the changes in the seasons, and always looking for evidence of animals large and small. On occasion, the walk to the woods takes us past Mr Bob as he works. These children are wondering what he is up to! Mr Bob can be seen here lining up small brush and leaves for mowing over them and adding to the compost pile.

Fall science blog
Fall science blog

The Township is putting a lot of work into Pine Run Park! There is a whole section that had invasive species removed and native species of trees planted and protected. Deer eat the smaller native trees, so the new trees need to be protected with a fence. We don’t usually see deer, but we do find deer scat!

Fall science blog

Food for Thought

The importance of nutrition in the development of the young child cannot be understated. It is essential that during this rapid period of growth in bodies and minds, the young child receives a well balanced diet of carbohydrates, both simple and complex, fats, proteins, water, minerals, vitamins and enzymes for optimal health.

Just as important, in these early years are the positive attitudes of the adults nurturing the young child as a social being. As soon as the infant is aware of how others around him are eating, there is an intense interest and desire to imitate this new way of receiving food. This is best supported by offering finger foods and opportunities for the use of utensils by the child, in collaboration with feeding, in a social setting. This acceptance of one of the child’s first attempts toward independence sets the stage for lifelong attitudes about food, family, respect and gratitude.

In the Toddler Community, we offer Food as an Occasion of Education. The children are eager to participate in the preparation of our snack foods and all the activities that prepare the room for our small meal together. Washing, peeling, chopping fruits and vegetables, mixing, rolling, cutting dough for biscuits or grating and spooning cheese onto tortillas are all carried out by the children on a daily basis.

The work area is set up with care so the children may be as independent as possible in their execution. A small cutting board, peeler and a basin for the peels to go into, a chopping tool and a serving bowl provide just what is needed to prepare cucumbers for our snack.

Clean up of the area is another aspect of great interest to the children. Wiping a table with a small sponge or practicing the hand skills for sweeping into a dustpan and carrying it level to the receptacle provide an immense feeling of accomplishment. If nothing makes it to the destination, there is an opportunity for repetition to sweep again. There are always dishes that need to be washed after we work in the kitchen. This is another relaxing but sequence oriented task, that helps a child work with a process to accomplish a goal; dishes are scrubbed, rinsed, and placed in the drainer.

Tables need to be moved together and set with a complete place setting for all the children. These are tasks that require cooperation, collaboration and completion! The younger children are often guided by their more capable peers and little by little, everyone has a spoon, fork, plate, cup and a folded napkin.

The fresh foods that are provided by our generous families offer a variety of healthy, seasonally available fruits and vegetables with a variety of smells, tastes, textures and techniques for preparing. What fun to open a pomegranate and gently coax the arils out into a bowl of water, or scoop the seeds and membranes from inside the pumpkin shell, to enjoy the pumpkin after it bakes. Foods that a child may be unfamiliar with and at first are declined, may be tried as it becomes apparent that others at the table are enjoying them.

As we come together at the tables for our ritual song of thanks and snuffing of the candle, the children are part of a caring community offering nourishment to one another through their foods and their deeds.

There is a precious twinkle in the eyes of a two year old who has been asked, “Will you please help me in the kitchen?”

Wishing everyone a Happy Thanksgiving and special moments together as your family prepares for a wonderful meal.

Toddler blog
Toddlers at work
Toddlers at work
Toddlers at work
Toddlers at work
Toddlers at work
Toddlers at work
Toddlers at work
Toddler blog

“My child is only 3.” “No, your child is already 3.”

“My child is only 3 (or 4, 5, 6 . . .)!

“No, your child is already 3 (or 4, 5, 6 . . .)!”

“What an odd name for the blog,” one might think. Yes, but let me explain.

Often, there is a discrepancy between how the parents see their child and how we, the Children’s House Guides, view him. Sorry, not just him, but rather a capable, independent child. We frequently hear: My child can’t do this, my child is only . . . (you fill in the blank). And then we tell the parents about what it is their child does at school and behold: surprise, disbelief, awe and PRIDE!!

A young child is able to do a multitude of tasks independently when given the tools and the environment to do so. A three-year-old should be able to get dressed by himself, wash his face and hands, brush his teeth, get a snack and a drink, and much more. In Children’s House, the children prepare their food, set tables, bake, dust, sweep, wash mirrors and windows, polish silver, do laundry, and steadily grow in their self-confidence and independence. And if they can do it at school, then they can do it at home.

Of course, it takes planning ahead and setting up appropriate accommodations for your child.

For example, set up a small pitcher with water and glasses on a low shelf in the kitchen. Fruit, crackers and such could be placed in a low cabinet, so that the child can prepare his own snack. A stepstool in the kitchen will allow him to help you with cooking, and a stepstool in the bathroom can assist your child in washing up and brushing his teeth independently.

Clothes should be easy to put on and take off. Shoes with velcro closures are helpful for self-dressing. A five year old should be learning how to tie his shoelaces. To make it easier for a child to choose what to wear, group his clothes into sets. Of course, a clothes hamper helps establish a habit of putting dirty clothes away and not on the floor.

Our job as parents and teachers is to guide our children to independence. Step by step, day by day, we help our children develop the skills of everyday life and take on more responsibility until they can stand firmly on their own feet. Unfortunately, it is so much easier and faster to do it ourselves or hire someone, than to teach our children how to do it for themselves. But if we don’t teach skills, how can we expect our children to act with responsibility when needed or when opportunity presents itself?

Maria Montessori said: “Never help a child with a task at which he feels he can succeed.” So next time your child is “taking forever” trying to zipper his coat, close your eyes, take a deep breath in and breathe out, in and out . . . and watch your child develop confidence to persevere through your patient example.

Slicing apples
Biscuit making
Slicing grapes
Flower arranging

Games, Words and PE

As a child in my school, PE was a once a week “special” that I absolutely LOVED! I couldn’t wait for my PE day in school, because I was a game loving, competitive, and physically active kid. I couldn’t relate to the kids who dreaded PE. However, in those days, PE was very competitive and Darwin-like . . . only the strongest survived! If you were not athletically inclined, you were the kid who stayed along the wall, avoided participating, usually the last one picked for a team, and who couldn’t wait for the class to end!

I reflect on those days and think about my students at TMS today. Some are athletes or budding athletes who just need some exposure to basic motor skills, while others are uncoordinated, uncomfortable and avoid participating. How can their skills improve if they don’t feel safe to try? I wanted to find a way to make PE a validating and fun experience for everyone.

An overarching goal in PE class is for the elementary-aged student to enjoy being active and recognize the importance of being active every day. In my lessons, I try to find a balance in activities that will engage student interest, allow them to develop gross motor skills, include some fitness, and practice working as a team while building cooperation strategies and sportsmanship skills. I emphasize teamwork, cooperation and sportsmanship to demonstrate the many different talents each child brings to class. It is easy for an athletic kid to dominate a game by taking charge or by just having strong gross motor skills. This kind of behavior pulls out the other athletic kids and contrasts with the uncertain kids, who are reluctant to take risks and simply fade into the background of the game.

Activities that build teamwork and strategies, and emphasize cooperation and strategy skills are the backbone of any sport and game. Most kids enjoy these activities as they are heavier on the critical thinking part than the actual physical part. These lessons can be particularly challenging for highly athletic students who are used to relying primarily on their athletic skills and not as much on a team plan. It can be challenging to learn to listen to others and develop a plan as a group. The child who likes to take charge discovers he or she is not the only one with a plausible idea and learns that sometimes his or her idea wasn’t the best plan. A coach of mine used to always say, “There Is no ‘I’ in TEAM”. With that said, I like to remind students that their team interactions have the ability to lift spirits or completely flatten them. Students are reminded to think about how their words make someone feel. Do they help or do they hurt? AND, to remember . . . it’s just a game!

During each PE class, students begin with an instant activity that lasts from two to five minutes. That activity could be fitness endurance such as walking and jogging, or skill building like throwing and catching or other forms of ball manipulation as a prerequisite for the skill building game. Then we stretch to develop flexibility and recognize our various muscle groups. Next, I introduce the game and review the rules. I remind the students before they create their teams how dependent the game is on cooperation and strategy skills.

At various times and always at the end of the game, I stop the children to evaluate and share what strategies are working, which ones are not, and why. Students feel good about sharing their insightful thinking and successes, and reflect on the obstacles that forced them to adjust their approach in the game.

Before the students are dismissed, I ask them to reflect on what kind of class they think they had. Some children voice out loud, some tap the image on the wall and others quietly reflect. This reflection engages the students to think about their behavior and efforts in class. The students are not only reflecting on their physical skills, but also on their responsibilities as a student to listen, participate, work within a team, have a positive attitude/sportsmanship, and to be respectful to their peers and school materials.

Together we’ve learned that when students have a steady routine, there is less time sitting or standing around in the gym, and all the students become engaged . . . even ones who would typically avoid being involved. It’s okay if some students don’t love PE, but I hope they all like it, have fun and are motivated to be more active.

PE instructions
PE Class
PE Wall

Language Development

Language is an intrinsic part of the human being; we all possess the innate possibility to develop language in our genes. The presence of the gene FoxP2, which is unique to human beings and aids in language and speech development, tells us that our linguistic ability is at least partially hard-wired. These genes are activated, or expressed, only through experiences the child has with spoken language during their formative years. Maria Montessori wrote that “The child has a mind able to absorb knowledge. He has the power to teach himself. A single observation is enough to prove this. The child grows up speaking his parent’s tongue, yet to grown-ups the learning of a language is a very great intellectual achievement. No one teaches the child, yet he comes to use nouns, verbs and adjectives to perfection.”

Toddler and GuideThe way in which adults and the child’s environment have a direct impact on language development is of great interest to Montessori educators, as well as how the structures of the child’s brain will be influenced by their experiences. From birth to three years old, children are in the sensitive period for language and the quality of their language environment is crucial to their brain development. In the Toddler Community, opportunities to support language development are offered not only through specific materials but in communication and conversations with the children consistently throughout the day. Children are learning not just words as vocabulary, but every single aspect of language and need to be spoken to like adults so that they can learn the complex version that they will be speaking.

The importance of conversation as a tool for language development is further explored in the article below:

Healthy Sleep Habits

Healthy Sleep Habits: How Many Hours Does Your Child Need?

​From infants and toddlers to school-aged kids and teens, parents want to know how many hours of sleep are recommended. While it’s true that sleep needs vary from one person to another, there are some very reasonable, science-based guidelines to help you determine whether your child is getting the sleep he or she needs to grow, learn, and play.

Childhood Sleep Guidelines

The American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) provides some helpful guidelines regarding just how much sleep children need at different stages in their development. Keep in mind that these numbers reflect total sleep hours in a 24-hour period. So if your son or daughter still naps, you’ll need to take that into account when you add up his or her typical sleep hours.

Sleep Hours Table

Do those numbers surprise you?

So, are you sending your child off to bed early enough? If those numbers are surprising to you, you’re not alone. Working and single parents, especially, are often forced to get by on 5, 6, or even fewer hours of sleep each night. This is likely impacting your own social and mental functioning, as well as increasing your risk for other health problems. It might be tempting to think that your children can also get by with less sleep than they need, or that they should be able to cope fairly well with a few skipped hours here and there. However, all children thrive on a regular bedtime routine. Regular sleep deprivation often leads to some pretty difficult behaviors and health problems—irritability, difficulty concentrating, hypertension, obesity, headaches, and depression. Children who get enough sleep have a healthier immune system, and better school performance, behavior, memory, and mental health.

Healthy Sleep Habits – Tips from the AAP

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) supports the AASM guidelines and encourages parents to make sure their children develop good sleep habits right from the start.

  • Make sufficient sleep a family priority. Understand the importance of getting enough sleep and how sleep affects the overall health of you and your children. Remember that you are a role model to your child; set a good example. Staying up all night with your teen to edit his or her paper or pulling an all-nighter for work yourself isn’t really sending the right message. Making sleep a priority for yourself shows your children that it’s part of living a healthy lifestyle—like eating right and exercising regularly.
  • Keep to a regular daily routine. The same waking time, meal times, nap time, and play times will help your child feel secure and comfortable, and help with a smooth bedtime. For young children, it helps to start early with a bedtime routine such as brush, book, bed. Make sure the sleep routines you use can be used anywhere, so you can help your child get to sleep wherever you may be.
  • Be active during the day. Make sure your kids have interesting and varied activities during the day, including physical activity and fresh air. See Energy Out: Daily Physical Activity Recommendations for more information.
  • Monitor screen time. The AAP recommends keeping all screens—TVs, computers, laptops, tablets, and phones out of children’s bedrooms, especially at night. To prevent sleep disruption, turn off all screens at least 60 minutes/1 hour before bedtime.  Create a Family Media Use Plan and set boundaries about use before bedtime.​
  • Create a sleep-supportive and safe bedroom and home environment. Dim the lights prior to bedtime and control the temperature in the home. Don’t fill up your child’s bed with toys. Keep your child’s bed a place to sleep, rather than a place to play. One or two things—a favorite doll or bear, a security blanket—are okay and can help ease separation anxietySee Suitable Sleeping Sites for more information specifically for babies under 12 months of age.
  • Realize that teens require more sleep, not less. sleep-wake cycles begin to shift up to two hours later at the start of puberty. At the same time, most high schools require students to get to school earlier and earlier. The AAP has been advocating for middle and high schools delay the start of class to 8:30 a.m. or later. It is important that parents and local school boards work together to implement high school start times that allow teens to get the healthy sleep they need. See the AAP policy statement, School Start Times for Adolescents, for more information.
  • Don’t put your baby to bed with a bottle of juice, milk, or formula. Water is okay. Anything other than water in the bottle can cause baby bottle tooth decay. Feed or nurse your baby, and then put him or her down to sleep.
  • Don’t start giving solids before about 6 months of ageStarting solid food sooner will not help your baby sleep through the night. In fact, if you give your baby solids before their system can digest them, he or she may sleep worse because of a tummy ache.
  • Avoid overscheduling. In addition to homework, many children today have scheduled evening activities (i.e., sports games, lessons, appointments, etc.) that pose challenges to getting a good night’s sleep. Take time to wind down and give your children the downtime that they need.
  • Learn to recognize sleep problems. The most common sleep problems in children include difficulty falling asleep, nighttime awakenings, snoring, stalling and resisting going to bed, sleep apnea, and loud or heavy breathing while sleeping.
  • Talk to your child’s teacher or child care provider about your child’s alertness during the day. Sleep problems may manifest in the daytime, too. A child with not enough, or poor quality sleep may have difficulty paying attention or “zoning out” in school. Let your child’s teacher know that you want to be made aware of any reports of your child falling asleep in school, as well as any learning or behavior problems.
  • Talk to your child’s pediatrician about sleep. Discuss your child’s sleep habits and problems with your pediatrician, as most sleep problems are easily treated. He or she may ask you to keep a sleep log or have additional suggestions to improving your child’s sleep habits.

Additional Information from HealthyChildren.org:


Last Updated – 7/2/2018
Source – American Academy of Pediatrics (Copyright © 2016)
The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.