Self-discipline and Normalisation in the 3-6 Child

By Kerry Pratchett – Rewarewa Head Teacher

I have spent the last two years going backwards and forwards to what my family call my ‘Sydney Apartment’ to do my 3 – 6 training. The last 3 weeks were spent reviewing the theory of the Montessori approach with exams at the end.

Dr Montessori had many strange terms that she used and one of these terms was ‘normalisation’.  This term is strongly linked to self-discipline. She observed that tamariki (children) are constructing themselves and in order to do this they are driven to ‘work’.

In her writings, Dr Montessori speaks about tamariki needing to have the freedom to do purposeful work.  I am sure that you are aware that in the preschool environment the tamariki undertake a variety of purposeful work – they prepare their own morning tea, wash laundry, clean windows, set tables and much more.  It was observed that when the tamariki are involved in this type of purposeful work their concentration is built up and ‘deviations’ are left behind.

We support the tamariki in the 3 – 6 environment by allowing them freedom within limits.  For example, they are able to work with a material provided they have had a lesson on how to use it, or they can choose to work anywhere they like so long as they do not distract others.

With each of these freedoms however, there are limits or consequences and responsibilities just as there are at home.  To illustrate, a child can prepare morning tea but must also clean up after him/herself.  Through this journey towards self-discipline and normalisation the child’s will develops meaning that they are able to obey themselves; they are no longer under the command of their internal drivers.

Some examples of a developed will at play are listed below:

– When the child expresses patience.

– When he persists with something for a long time.

– When she corrects her own mistakes through the material’s control of error.

– When the child does not need praise as this is an attitude of the mind.

– When he carries a glass of water on the line so carefully as not the spill anything.

– When she restrains herself from being disorderly in her movement.

– When a child overcomes his/her anger and uses the appropriate emotions.

With a developed will the child is granted an even greater amount of freedom and trust within the environment.  The child now has control over their mind, muscles and nerves.  They are normalised!  Dr Montessori stated that “A unique type of child appears, “a new child”; but really it is the child’s true personality allowed to construct its personality normally”. (Secret of Childhood, p. 185).