The purpose of Montessori education is not just a scientific approach to education or ensuring every child knows how to stack a pink tower or do long division—the ultimate goal of Montessori education is peace in our world. This lofty goal is pursued in small ways each day in the Montessori classroom. At our most recent Parent Education Night, we hope we provided parents with the knowledge they need to help their child pursue peace beyond the time they spend in school.
Fostering a peaceful environment does not mean being fearful of conflict and keeping the peace at any cost; it actually means reframing conflict as an opportunity for growth and connection. Because navigating conflict involves different approaches depending on the developmental stage of each child, a helpful tool for guiding children to reframe conflict is understanding the planes of development—patterns of growth observed and defined by Dr. Montessori.
A first-plane child—ages 0-6—absorbs and understands the world around them using their senses. Therefore, managing conflict for a first-plane child involves preparing the environment so that conflict is manageable and controlled. This can mean maintaining a consistent schedule or giving children space to work alone. We also introduce conflict as an opportunity to build social skills by keeping limited materials and resources in the environment. Often for first plane children, recognizing that they often simply need to be heard and then move on, works fine. We find that they don’t always need to talk about their feelings to the extent that we might think they do.
A second-plane child—ages 6-12— responds to reason, justice, and discussion. Therefore, managing conflict for a second-plane child requires the caregiver to do the emotional preparations around their own views about conflict. This preparation of the caregiver means examining themselves to see how they manage conflict and how they might project their own strategies or negative associations with conflict onto their children.
With regard to conflict between the child and caregiver, this preparation of the adult can also mean ensuring that the caregiver is being consistent and "fair" in setting boundaries for the child. For example, is it just to accuse a child of “talking back” to an adult when they question a new boundary the caregiver offers that may seem to contradict a boundary set last week? We must remember that a child who is in the second plane is called a "Reasoning Mind" because they generally have a thoughtful approach to situations. Questioning a rule doesn't necessarily mean disrespect for authority.
When dealing with conflict between the child and peers, the preparation can mean resisting the urge to take control. As adults, we would like to jump in and fix the situation. Maybe we feel that our experience will help our second plane children avoid missteps when trying to solve their problems. As caregivers, though, we should always employ stepping back and letting children gracefully work out their conflict. The solutions they produce tend to be more meaningful and lasting. The ability to solve these conflicts is given a strong base through grace and courtesy lessons in school as well as community meetings in the elementary that discuss behavior and expectations.
Understanding the planes of development empowers parents and caregivers to tailor their parenting to their children and meet their needs at each stage of life. We are grateful for all the parents who were able to attend and know that their efforts to providing optimal support for their child in their development will make a big difference.
Interested in applying to Midtown Montessori? Click here to get all the information you need about the application and admission process.