Category Archives: Discipline

Setting Limits the Montessori Way

By Rubi

Being a mother is one of the biggest challenges I will ever have.  In my opinion, caring for a tiny human being could be one of the most rewarding things in the world and the most stressful thing at the same time.

Now that F is able to walk everywhere, she doesn’t want to stop (which actually makes me really happy, unlike some other parents who complain about this issue). F is free to move and touch almost everything around the house.

As she grows and gains more confidence she shows her temperament in different ways.  Most of the time she has a hard time understanding that there are things she is not allowed to do such as:

  • Hitting the glass door with her toys or materials
  • Hitting her friends with her  xylophone’s mallet
  • Grabbing the toys from her friend’s hands (Over and over. She follows them and takes or wants whatever the other child has.)
  • Screaming at her friends in the face to get a toy back
  • Walking while eating or drinking

F 10 months and K 6 months

All of those things are really hard to understand for a 14 month old child, who now has her hands free to explore and very little language skills. That being said I strongly believe that it is important to set limits and set up the foundations for care, love and respect.

We are also welcoming her friend K (10 months) into our home and I want F to be respectful and show her positive behaviour. K will stay with us 5 days a week and I want her to have a pleasant experience and feel safe, as well.

When I was working in a primary environment (children 3 to 6), at VMS, I learned that consistency is the main key when you are trying to set up boundaries. For example, sometimes I had to show a child how to tuck in their chair over and over until they internalized the concept. It was such a joy to see that proud child showing their friends how to tuck in a chair in a respectful and loving way. I realized that it was all worth it.

Here are some examples of the way I guide F when she shows behaviour that is not appropriate:

If F is hitting the glass door with a toy, I walk towards her, get to her eye level and calmly say “F No!” I show her how the toy works and give it back to her; if she hits the glass again I gently remove the toy from her hands and say: “It is time to put this toy away, since you are not using it properly” (even if she cries). I make sure to observe if she is hungry, tired, frustrated or just needs attention from Mommy. It is important to remember that a child this age may hit or act this way out of frustration or anger, or just to discover how others will respond if she has this behaviour. Sometimes they need an adult to consistently provide limits until they have internalized their limits and can successfully manage their impulses.


I like the way Deborah Carlisle Solomon addresses setting limits in her book, Baby Knows Best: Raising a Confident and Resourceful Child, the RIE Way: “Sometimes a toddler will give a little push to another child who is in her way, and that is the end of it. At other times, it’s plain to see that there is more energy behind the push, it may signal the beginning of more aggression. Then it may be necessary to squat down on their level. Your peaceful presence may be enough to prevent things from escalating…..If one or both children continue trying to hit or push, you may put one hand between them so that it won’t be possible for one child to hit or push the other…… Do your best to set limits clearly and calmly, without judgment or alarm.” (At the beginning when F started hitting I was alarmed and concern. I decided to analyze the situation and go back to do more reading. That made me realize that it is a normal behaviour in a young child and it is up to me to address it properly)

When her friends come over and she consistently takes the toys away from them and they get frustrated and cry. I get F’s attention and say: “F, _____ is playing with the puzzle. You can have something else,” and I give her another option or options. I do not say “you have to share,” since it is important that she understands that another child is using that toy and she can play with the toy as soon as it is available. If the other child doesn’t care that F took the toy away from him/her and moves onto a different toy, I normally say nothing since it is nice to allow them the opportunity to resolve their issues.

When she hits another child I immediately stop her from doing it and give positive attention to the other child and say: “I am sorry F hit you.”  If the child lets me hug him/her then I do it.  F gets upset and wants me to pick her up immediately. I just say: “F you have to touch him/her gently” and show her how to touch her friends.


F is a loving and a very active child who is learning that there are many things in this world that she is not able to do and that there are some limitations in her environment. She also gets frustrated when this happens and she shows that she is upset, needs attention, or she is tired. She likes to get people’s attention. I just have to show her that she will not get positive attention when she does things that are not safe for her or her friends.

I know I have to be patient and consistent because she will eventually stop hitting and will touch her friends gently.  She will learn how to respect and care for them, as well as respect her toys, materials and environment.


Filed under 12-18 Months, Discipline, Rubi

Setting Limits

by Tomoko

When my daughter was still an infant, I could never imagine that she would ever become a child with the “terrible twos” since she was a happy and gentle child.  When she became around 15 months, she started to have a strong “will” and show aggressiveness. I was so shocked when she tried to hit me, talk back to me and refuse to do anything.  I guess it is a typical stage for her age.  She is struggling to express herself when she does not yet have the words and wants to assert her independence.

I always deal with this stage in my toddler classroom but it’s so hard for me when it’s my own child because I tend to get more emotional. I try to be calm and not to get upset. I try to explain what she did and that makes me feel sad. Building a reasoning mind is important for this stage.  When your child doesn’t want to do something you ask, please explain why it’s important to do it.  Here are some tips  that may help when you encounter difficult situations with your child.

“The child needs to move freely within the environment so that he may gain independence. Although the child is still young, she requires clear and consistent limits.”

For example, when the child is asked “Would you like to have a cucumber or carrot?” If the child chooses carrots, she needs to try it. “Would you like to go to the potty by yourself or do you want me to take you there?” If the child doesn’t want to go, you will take the child.  If your child doesn’t want to hold your hand on the street, “Would you like to hold my hand or would you like to sit in the stroller?”

  •  The limits need to be consistent so the child gets a clear idea.
  • We always need to be clear why we are doing that for the child.
  • Giving real options allows the child to experience logical consequences.  For instance if you were to say “If you don’t put your shoes on now, I will go shopping without you, but realistically you can’t go out without your child.”  A real option would be to say, “We need to go out now.  You can put your shoes on or I will put them on for you.”
  • Set the limit in the relationship for the child and the other children’s safety.
  • If you know the child will answer “No” don’t ask the question. For example, “Would you like to go to the washroom after drawing?” The child might say “No” so provide specific direction instead such as “Go to the washroom after drawing.”
  • If the child is not playing with the blocks properly, then distract or entice the child with another activity.  Prepare an alternative such as, “Let’s do this puzzle.  We’ll put your blocks away.”
  • Always acknowledge positive and good behavior of the child. “You put your toys away all by yourself. You did it.”
  • Limit the use of negative words. For example, instead of saying “Don’t run. Don’t touch,” say “Walk quietly in the house.” “That is dangerous, so use this instead.” State the affirmative of what the child can do.
  • Become the role model for the child.

The child’s liberty should have as its limit interests of the group to which he belongs. Its form should consist in what we call good breeding and behaviour. We should therefore prevent a child from doing anything which may offend or hurt others, or which is impolite or unbecoming. But everything else, every act that can be useful in any way whatever, may be expressed. It should not only be permitted but it should also be observed by the teacher.  This is essential.  From his scientific training, a teacher should acquire not only an ability but also an interest in observing natural phenomena. In our system he should be much more passive than active, and his passivity should be compounded of an anxious scientific curiously and a respect for the phenomena which he wishes to observe. It is imperative that a teacher understand and appreciate his position as an observer.”  Discovery of the Child by Maria Montessori

Don’t forget to enter to win the Five Pack of Toys from Beginning Montessori by commenting on our blog or our facebook page with something you’d like us to write about in future posts.  Entries must be submitted by Saturday, August 24 11:59PM PST.  (Contest has now closed)


Filed under 12-18 Months, 18-24 Months, 2 years +, Discipline, Tomoko