“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 these exercises … the child becomes calm, radiantly happy, busy, forgetful of himself and, in consequence, indifferent to prizes or material rewards.” —The Absorbent Mind, Maria Montessori
Rewards, bribes and punishment are not part of Maria Montessori’s approach to motivating a child to do her best. The ensuing question is: “How?”—how does one nurture an inner drive to do something in a way that doesn’t involve an external crutch (like a reward or bribe)?
Simone Davies (mum of two and qualified Montessori teacher) has come up with 42 ways to build intrinsic motivation in children (each step building upon the previous). Here are the first ten:
- Build an environment where they can have success—from knowing where they can find things to having things at their level.
- Create opportunities for them to build independence—they see themselves as capable.
- Cultivate opportunities to work together, cooperate and care for others—they see their input matters.
- Value process over product—there is more learning in the doing than in the final result.
- Use encouragement rather than praise—when they hear, “you worked hard to get your shirt on all by yourself” rather than “good job,” they learn to look to themselves what worked rather than looking to us for praise.
- The freedom to work on things they are interested in—rather than what the teacher/adult tells them or a timeline.
- Safe limits—offer security and show someone cares about them.
- The freedom to choose—what, where and with whom they’d like to work.
- A clear rhythm to their day—they know what to expect.
- Learning respect for themselves, each other and the environment—they feel truly accepted and learn to accept others.
There are another 32 steps, which can be found on Themontessorinotebook.com. This might seem overwhelming but each the steps work together to create an environment whereby children are motivated to work independently, and to complete each task successfully. You can also adapt according to what works best for your family.