There’s an interesting conversation about the parallels between Montessori and typical French parenting going on here:
This latest post has lots of thoughtful, provocative ideas. Thanks Tricia!
Hmmm… interesting questions about authority without social conformity. I’d love to hear Pamela’s answer on that.
But, I have to tell you that I think you have a gross misunderstanding of Montessori philosophy. A solid Montessori classroom or home environment would never tolerate the child-king syndrome. The Montessori environment is one of the most rigid and structured education environments I’ve ever seen (I’m an education consultant and have observed and studied a large variety of school models.) The rules are firm and unwavering and are entirely adult-directed rules. The timing and subject matter is the part that “follows the child.” For example, the teacher observes the child to determine when the child is ready to learn their multiplication tables. Then when the child has the interest and ability, the multiplication is taught. Then the child can struggle with that lesson independently or with a friend or a teacher for as short or as long of a time as he needs to to fully understand it. Most of the materials are self correcting so that the child can work independently at their own pace. However, the lesson itself is highly structured and there are very definite rules on how to do the work. A child is not even allowed to touch a classroom material unless they have had a lesson on that material from the teacher first. Amazingly, even 2 year olds obey this firm rule and show the self restraint to only “play” with the materials that they have been shown how to use.
In the home environment, we have rearranged our house Montessori-style to accommodate the child’s ability to learn self-sufficiency which results in the opposite of the child-king syndrome. For example, anything my child could need is at a lower level so that they may take responsibility for themselves rather than demanding that an adult do for them. They can reach all the utensils, plates, glasses, etc so that they are responsible for setting the table and clearing the table. There are stools everywhere. Dustpans, brooms, and cleaning supplies are abundant in the lower cabinets so that they may clean their own spills. Toys are in very neat bins, out of the way of the adult living space, and children are directed (Montessori style) to put away one toy/game before they take out another. Kids love that sense of order and they are happy to see how they can fit into our adult household… chores are everyday expected customs rather than a trick or task that deserves a reward.
Back to your interesting question about how to have adult authority without social conformity… one of the reasons why the Montessori classroom runs so smoothly, is because of the social conformity and the multi-age groupings. If a 3 year old leaves a mess in the snack area, a 5 year old in the same class is very likely to notice and then on their own respectfully go and show the 2 year old where the (child-sized) dustpan is located. The younger children new to the classroom are quick to catch on to the well established traditions and unwritten rules of the environment. In order to maintain authority, the teacher “only” needs to create an organized structured environment and then can almost sit back and watch how happily young children are eager to learn and follow the social conformity. I’ve seen parents of multiple children run an efficient household this way too. Put a do-able consistent system in place (home, school, or work) and people of all ages are often eager and relieved to fall into step with the rules.