Behaviour management with young learners

Behaviour management with young learners

Reflective Diary submitted by Lisa

shutterstock_207975283I arrived in Spain in 2011, Initially nannying for a family with a 1 year old girl in Malasaña, in the centre of Madrid. The idea they had was for me to talk to her only in English. It worked out very well.

I believe in the Montessori method where children are not told they are bad when they misbehave, just redirecting their behaviour and showing them the right thing to do. In 2012, I started working with young learners age 3-6 in different schools around Madrid. I saw lots of different types of behaviour management techniques in various schools throughout Madrid. I found that the timeout method, where a young child was sent out of the classroom when they misbehaved, to be totally ineffective. It did not change the behaviour of the children, it just created more anxiety in the child and lack of trust for the teacher and assistant. In the early years children can’t reason as to why they are being punished, causing unnecessary suffering for the child. I’ve observed the teacher’s at my so’s Montessori school, they are given individual lessons depending on their interests, level and needs, which I find to very effective. I find that a maximum of 10 children per class to be ideal number when teaching Young learners. When I was teaching classes of 25 children, it was very chaotic, so I’d divide them into small groups which worked wonders and any children that didn’t want to do the activity I would ask them if they wanted to choose another activity or read a book by themselves.

I did some research on behaviour management and it was fascinating. I found that when I worked in regular schools the teachers would say how they needed to control “bad children” and then I would think to myself of what the thoughts of Dr. Maria Montessori (Founder of the Montessori method) were. I remembered that she used the term naughty to describe behaviour that was immature rather than immoral or wrong. In a lecture in 1946, she had this to say about misbehaviour in children: “Children are not naughty by nature. It is wrong treatment that makes them [children] naughty. Mental starvation causes naughtiness. Lack of activity causes naughtiness” it is a common misconception that Montessori schools are devoid of discipline. Nothing can be farther from the truth:

“The children in our schools are free, but that does not mean there is no organization. Organization, in fact, is necessary and if the children are to be free to work, it must be even more than thorough than in the ordinary schools.” (The Absorbent Mind, pg. 223)


Children are not naughty, though their behaviour at times may be undesired. They must learn appropriate behaviour. Montessori seeks to teach through respect and modifications to the environment, rather through punitive measures. “Conscious will is a power which develops with use and activity. We must aim at cultivating the will, not at breaking it.” (The Absorbent Mind, pg 231) “Will and obedience then go hand in hand, in as much as the will is a prior foundation in the order of development, and obedience is a later stage resting on this foundation.” (The Absorbent Mind, pg. 234)

Inner discipline is something to come and not something already present. Our task is to show the way to discipline. Discipline is born when the child concentrates his attention on some object that attracts him and which provides him not only with a useful exercise but with a control of error. Thanks to well structured exercises, a wonderful integration takes place in the infant soul, as a result of which the child becomes calm, radiantly happy, busy, forgetful of himself and, in consequence, indifferent to prizes or material rewards.” (The Absorbent Mind, pg. 236) I love Dr. Montessori’s book, The Absorbent Mind, especially chapters 18-26. In addition, you’ll find that Dr. Jane Nelsen’s work on Positive Discipline closely aligns with the Dr. Montessori’s ideas and views.