Positive Reinforcement: a Montessori Perspective

Positive reinforcement, the idea that external rewards must be used to build a child’s confidence, is believed by many to be the best tool for guiding the growth and development of children. This is not entirely true. While positive reinforcement is a helpful tool in giving children feedback, it’s not the only means of development for them.

The Montessori method has proven to be an excellent guideline for teaching children to reach their fullest potential, but the Montessori perspective on positive reinforcement may surprise you.

The Montessori Method

Dr. Maria Montessori realized that the key to a child’s full development is intrinsic motivation. She noticed that, when left on their own to learn at their own pace, children have a natural desire to understand the world around them.

The Montessori method of teaching explains that the job of parents and teachers is to guide this desire to learn. Children motivate themselves to work towards intelligence, and we must not distract them from their path. In other words, there is no need to excessively offer children rewards for something they should motivate themselves to do.

Does that make Positive Reinforcement bad?

Not necessarily. While children need to drive their own learning, they still require your feedback. It is beneficial for children to receive some form of reinforcement, such as guidance or affection, in order to remain motivated. However, the Montessori perspective recommends avoiding certain methods of providing feedback.

Saying, for example, “Good job!” is a natural reaction to let your child know you approve of the work they have done. Unfortunately, this creates an emotional connection between your child and the task. Though seemingly innocent, this sets a precedent for your child to measure their own worth by the completion of objectives.

This can have a few negative consequences. Your child may begin to feel insecure about themselves when they fail, or they may become overly confident in their abilities. If your child is afraid to fail or take risks, they might avoid challenges and unintentionally stunt their own growth. If your child feels they can do no wrong, narcissism may present itself and hinder development as well.

To avoid these outcomes, the Montessori method proposes a different approach to positive reinforcement.

Positive Reinforcement, the Montessori way

According to the Montessori perspective, the ideal use of reinforcement comes in the form of descriptive praise.

This is a form of verbal reinforcement that focuses the evaluation of praise on the effort a child places on a task, rather than completion. This is done by describing the actions the child took and their consequences in a positive light.

For example, when your child shows you a drawing they made, a descriptive form of praise would be, “Wow that’s so creative! You put a lot of work into that.”

Instead of biasing the completion of the task, the praise reinforces your child’s ability to think freely and put effort into an objective. Reinforcing the work ethic, not the work, can be much more helpful in guiding your child’s development, and can have lasting positive effects.


How Silverline guides growth with the Montessori Method

At Silverline Montessori, our authentic approach to Montessori helps to guide students towards academic enrichment. With the help of dedicated and carefully trained teachers, students are able to reach their fullest learning potential and develop long-lasting skills.

How to Motivate Your Child the Montessori Way

The Montessori method is all about intrinsic motivation, or the desire to engage in behavior that arises from within the child himself, as it is naturally satisfying to him. All children have this intrinsic motivation to learn and to explore. When it comes to motivating your child to cooperate with you, it’s important to tap into this intrinsic motivation, rather than resorting to punishments or external rewards.

By tapping into this intrinsic motivation, we are able to develop the child’s will and independence. On the other hand, if we oppose their free will, it can lead to more disobedience. One way to develop the child’s free will is to give them our respect. By showing our children respect, we can earn theirs, and by extension their cooperation.

How to earn your child’s respect

Be patient

One way to earn your child’s respect is to be patient with them. Sometimes if a child refuses to do something, we may get frustrated and lash out. This is not the ideal reaction because it will lose our child’s respect. It’s important for us to not rush our children or force them into doing the thing that we asked as this may clash with their free will or they may not be developmentally ready to take that task on their own.

Offer help and encouragement

When a child is unable to do something right away, it’s important for us to recognize this and offer them help and encouragement. For instance, if you are in a rush and tell your child to put on their jacket so you can leave, your child may refuse and say no.

To motivate your child in this situation, you can simply say “You’re saying no to putting on your jacket. We need to go to the grocery store now. Would you like me to help you put on your jacket or would you like to put it on by yourself?”

By offering her choices, you are showing your child that you respect her free will. Offering your help also shows your child that you are willing to work on things together and that will make them feel like it’s a team effort, rather than making them feel like they have to do everything by themselves.

Recognize that this is part of their development

One day your child may do the task you ask her to do with no problem, and the next day she may say no. Disobedience or refusing to cooperate is going to happen because it is a natural part of the child’s development. That’s why it’s so important for us to work with the child to develop her will during these formative years instead of trying to break it. After all, we want our children to be independent individuals who choose to behave well on their own accord.

Motivating students at Silverline

Our faculty at Silverline Montessori School has crafted a learning environment that taps into the child’s intrinsic motivation to learn. Our classrooms are designed to encourage independence, good behavior, concentration and coordination. As a result, our students begin to build character and confidence and improve their focus and attention.

Practical Life Activities

A Montessori education differs from a traditional daycare in many ways. One of the most important elements of a Montessori curriculum is the use of practical life activities. These activities are things that we do in our daily lives, such as cleaning, sewing, and gardening. Practical life activities serve many different purposes in a Montessori preschool and you typically won’t find these in your average daycare.

Improving Developmental Skills

Practical life activities help children develop concentration skills, as well as control and coordination of movement. Tasks as simple as serving a drink to someone enhance multiple skills. When a child pours water from a pitcher into a glass, several things are occurring. First, the child is developing fine motor skills in the hands, fingers and wrist from the pouring motion that is happening. Hand-eye coordination is also used as the child guides the pitcher towards the empty glass. Finally, the child is using concentration skills to make sure that the water is not spilling or overflowing out of the glass.

Positive Self-Esteem

Children see adults as role models and imitate adult behavior. When a child has the opportunity to complete “an adult task,” they feel important and gain a sense of pride. They develop confidence in their abilities and a sense of independence. Being able to meaningfully contribute to the home by sweeping kitchen floors or sewing a button back onto a shirt helps a child feel more positive about himself, self-sufficient – fulfilling their drive toward functional independence.  This sense of purpose and improved self-esteem only increases as a child learns to master more challenging tasks.

As adults, we look at daily activities such as washing dishes and folding clothing as boring chores that are necessary in order to keep a clean home. For children, however, these chores are interesting activities that adults do every day. When you take the time to teach your child how to do these simple activities, you are showing them that you trust them and see them as a contributing member of the family.

Preparing Children for Reality

Practical life activities prepare children for the real world by teaching and refining individual skills to be carried out in purposeful activities becoming productive members in society. While traditional schools and education tend to focus solely on developing reading and mathematical skills, Montessori schools believe that reality-based skills set the foundation for academic skills, and should be taught as well. A good Montessori school will use authentic materials in the learning environment. For example, shoes should be cleaned with real polish, and water should be poured into a real glass.

While materials should be real, it is best to use materials that are proportionate to the child. If a child is watering a plant, the handle must fit her hand and she must be able to easily carry the watering can. A child would not be able to lift a regular-sized watering can, so we use a smaller-sized can. The can is the same color, shape, and texture as the regular-sized one, but in a version that is the right size for a child.

Practical Life at Silverline Montessori

At Silverline Montessori School, practical life activities are an important part of our curriculum. As an Associate Member School of the American Montessori Society, we provide a high-quality and authentic Montessori education to our students. Our locations in Pearland and Towne Lake Cypress are dedicated to preparing children for future success in both education and life. We strive to be a top tier Montessori preschool, exceeding the expectations that parents may have when seeking a preschool or daycare for their child.


Montessori Environment at Home: How to Design a Montessori Bedroom for Your Toddler

Just like a meticulously designed Montessori classroom can encourage order, independence and self-motivation, so too can a carefully crafted Montessori bedroom. Bringing the Montessori environment into your home not only cultivates your child’s confidence but also serves as a bridge to what your toddler learns at school.

Here are some ways that you can implement Montessori principles into your toddler’s bedroom to create a Montessori environment at home:

Get a floor bed.

A floor bed provides children with the ultimate form of independence. It allows him to easily climb in and out of bed without any extra help from his parents. This gives the child much more control over himself.

Provide low storage space.

Make sure that your child’s belongings – toys and clothes – are within their reach. An easy way to do this is to set up low shelves or cubbies in the room to make their toys accessible and baskets to place books within arm’s reach. You can also install a lower rod in the closet so that your child can choose her own clothes.  Being able to do this empowers the child by allowing her to make her own decisions.

Supply child-sized furniture.

By adding a tiny table and chair, you can create a toddler-friendly work space, yet another way to foster your child’s ability to self-motivate. To make the environment even more appealing to a toddler, try adding a cozy beanbag chair or a tiny rocking chair. Either one would serve as the perfect place for your little one to settle down with his favorite storybook.

Keep it simple.

A Montessori space encourages simplicity and order. You can de-clutter by putting any excess toys or furniture in storage.

Decorate with low-hanging paintings.

This again goes back to the whole concept of scaling things down so that they are at your child’s level. By hanging paintings at a lower level, you give your child the ability to explore and interact with her environment. Hanging the paintings at eye level also give your child the chance to truly appreciate the artwork.

Add a mirror.

Children love looking at themselves and admiring their own clothing selections and a mirror enables them to do this. By hanging a child-height mirror in the room, you also promote self-care as it allows children to look at themselves as they get dressed and brush their hair.

Our Environment

At Silverline Montessori School, we provide our students with a carefully planned Montessori environment that includes a wide variety of Montessori materials. Our classrooms are designed specifically to promote creativity, imagination, independence, and self-awareness.