I Never Knew Putting A Diaper On A 5-Year-Old As ‘Punishment’ Was Part Of The Montessori Program

Montessori School DiaperAs a parent I have always envied parents who sent or are sending their children to a Montessori school. My children did not attend Montessori, but if I had littles ones I would probably consider it. I think the whole idea of a school where children learn concepts via discovery is pretty cool, but I guess the school is only as cool as the teachers staffing it and in this case in Highland, Indiana, I think it’s safe to say that was this teacher and her aides did was very NOT cool. From The Daily Mail:

A teacher was suspended and her aide fired after she reportedly made a five-year-old student wear a diaper in class because he was ‘acting like a baby’.

The incident took place at the Children of the Earth Montessori School in Highland, Indiana.

The parents of the child brought the issue up a meeting at the school last week.

The child’s mother – who has not been identified – said she was shocked when the five-year-old came home and said he was forced to wear a diaper over his clothes.

She said he is humiliated by the incident.

Um, yeah, I would think so. That sounds pretty humiliating and spirit-crushing to me. Granted, I’m not an educator but I know from my own experiences raising humans that they can be frustrating and “act like babies” at times but punishing an older kid by making him wear a diaper in front of other students is pretty awful. Even if he only wore it over his clothing. It sounds like a great way to set this kid up for teasing from his other classmates, especially considering it was a grownup who did this. I think most parents who pay the tuition to send their kids to Montessori do so because they feel it is the best learning environment for their children and because they feel public school in their areas aren’t as good of a choice as their local Montessori school. How awful for these parents who felt they were doing the best thing for their kid by sending him there, and how awful for the poor kid to be humiliated by his teacher like this.

(Photo: Children Of The Earth Montessori School)

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  • http://www.facebook.com/courtney.wooten Courtney Lynn

    There’s a Montessori school about 5 minutes from us. I’ve heard a lot of good things about it, but I’ve heard the curriculum is only as good as the teacher. For the method to work, the teacher his/herself has to believe in the method.

    As far as what this teacher did, it’s unacceptable anywhere. I have worked with kids, for 7 years, actually. 5 year olds are still very little and still very prone to babyish behavior sometimes. Not saying it should be encouraged, but putting a diaper on a 5 year old is no way to handle it, either. They said he kicked another student. I had my share of kickers and some of them older than 5! It never crossed anyone’s mind to put a diaper on the kid, nor should it. I think the teacher needs to grow up.

    • http://www.xojane.com/author/eve Eve Vawter

      That’s what time outs are for!

  • LET

    Hm…I’m kind of on the fence about this one. I mean, it probably wasn’t the most appropriate punishment to pick in a school environment, but I think (correct me if I’m wrong), Montessori school’s philosophy on punishment is that the punishment should be a “natural” consequence of the child’s action. At the time, it probably just made sense that the natural consequence of acting like a baby is to be treated like one. Like I said, it wasn’t the adult’s best judgment to choose this particular punishment (in her place, I might say “If you act like a baby, you will be treated like a baby, and babies don’t get to play with the other kids. You can sit out for x minutes” or something to that effect), but I don’t think it’s exactly psychologically damaging, and it’s definitely not abuse. Honestly, my son is 4, and he wouldn’t think this to be a punishment at all, he would probably think it was hilarious to walk around wearing a diaper on the outside of his clothes.
    I’m really trying to put myself in these parents’ positions and think how I would feel about my son receiving this punishment at school. I think there’s a fine line between punishment & humiliation. I mean, my son is pretty darn embarrassed any time he’s corrected in front of others, and I’m certainly not going to stop correcting him. I know I still remember having to stand “on the wall” (time out) in recess in 2nd grade, and I felt pretty humiliated to do that, but I wouldn’t have any problem with teachers doing that to my son (putting him in time out). I know my MIL has foster boys, and she finds it very difficult to discipline them, as many of the guidelines are vague (and, obviously, she doesn’t want to break rules). What’s “humiliating” to one person may or may not be to others, it’s kind of subjective, and most punishment involves a little bit of embarrassment and/or humiliation, because being called out is pretty embarrassing in and of itself.
    All in all, in this day and age, I probably wouldn’t have doled out this particular punishment, and I think the aide should maybe have been suspended & maybe made to have a mini lesson on more appropriate punishments so that an issue like this doesn’t happen again, but I’m definitely not ready to crucify her. Without knowing the exact transgression & my son’s reaction (some kids are more sensitive than others, and I think a teacher knowing how to correct each kid in the best way possible for him/her is a big deal), it’s hard to say how I would react as the parent.

    • http://www.xojane.com/author/eve Eve Vawter

      This is such a thoughful reply, thank you

    • SusannahJoy

      oh man…. the wall… that brings back some memories…

    • Psych Student

      You do bring up a good point, that what may not be humilating for one person may be exceedingly humiliating for another person. While I think we can agree that being forced (that may not be the right word) to wear a diaper in front of his friends and the like is most likely humilating, it depends a lot on how the teacher presented it and that influences the way the other children will react and may or may not tease the boy. I would perfer a more standardized form of punishment so the kids can know what to expect from bad behavior. That *might* lessen the potiential bullying towards kids recieving punishment.

    • Not a parent. MockMyInsights.

      I’m admittedly not an expert on Montessori education, but I do quite a bit of reading about it. So someone with more knowledge, please correct me if I’m wrong.
      If I’m remembering correctly Maria Montessori’s methods never even really brought punishment into the equation. Her essential premise is that:
      1. There is no such thing as a child that can’t be edcuated (radical for her time)
      2. We, as adults, impose on our ideas of what children should do and how they should behave and learn on them. Then we get mad when a 4 year old can’t sit still for 4-6 hours a day. They’re 4. That’s not how they are emotionally or psychologically set up to learn at that point. (At least, not all of them). She believed that we should meet children where they are, and teach them in ways that make sense to them.
      3. Clearly, this varies wildly from child to child. (Which is why Montessori schools often seem unstructured…they’re not, they’re just structured in a different way)
      4. Circling back around, if I’m remembering my theory right: Maria believed (correctly) that most kids act out for completely legitimate (to them) reasons and if you talk to them and figure out the who/what/when/where/why you can often correct the behavior without punishment.

      As a post script: Some kids just want to have a tantrum. I believe the Montessori way of handling that is to make sure they’re safe, and ignore them until they’re done and able/willing to talk about what was upsetting them. (This I’m extrapolating from my experience attending a Montessori school/having a Montessori teacher as a Mom)

      Montessori education–true Montessori education–is some of the best in the world because it treats children like people not like small idiots who must be molded “correctly”. Children are not stupid, but the way we attempt to educate them often is.
      And I’m sorry if this sounds ranty to people. I am fiercely protective of Maria Montessori and Montessori education because it is wildly misunderstood today. Don’t judge the method based on the schools claiming to use it. Read the theory and then judge it. Rant over.

  • Rachel Sea

    At my elementary school it was common for the teachers to shame students in all kinds of “creative” ways, and invariably their shaming made that kid the target of vicious bullying until the teacher picked a new target. If my kid’s teacher set them up for that kind of abuse I would pitch a fit.

  • http://twitter.com/witavorr AE Vorro

    One thing to note about Montessori schools, in general, is that there is not licensing or franchising in place. Anyone can just slap the Montessori title onto their school, regardless of how they conduct the curriculum. This is just something to keep in mind when stories like this come to light: what happens in one Montessori, doesn’t necessarily happen in any others and, of course, the teachers are the ultimate variable. Some schools try to be as authentically Montessorian as possible, while others try to embrace the spirit. I’d even go so far as to say that the fact that this school is a Montessori is not even a relevant detail.

    • Not a parent. MockMyInsights.

      That’s actually not true. In order to call yourself a Montessori teacher, there’s some pretty strict courses/certificates that has to go on. While I’m sure that there are many schools that just slap on “Montessori” to their title, if they’re not a part of/accredited by the AMS or the AMI (The American Montessori Society and the International Montessori Society) you’re absolutely taking a risk sending your kid there.
      I do agree that the fact that this school is Montessori is not relevant.

  • FutureMemory

    I went to a Montessori school from ages 5 through 8, and only stopped attending when my parents moved to a small town that didn’t have a local Montessori. I don’t remember any sort of shaming tactics used by teachers to try to get kids to behave.

    It’s been more than 30 years and I still remember the names of the three teachers we had in purple door. Miss you Nancy, Ephraim, Anne.

    All in all I loved the Montessori experience and recommend it highly.

  • Not a parent. MockMyInsights.

    Yes this is awful, but I’d like to go on record as saying that this has nothing to do with Montessori teaching (is in point of fact, the direct opposite of Maria Montessori’s belief that children are intelligent creative people who happen to be shorter then we are and that we impose our own views on what is acceptable rather then meeting them where they are).
    And while I understand page views and whatnot…this headline is wildly sensationalized. It was a horrible incident at a Montessori school, but it could have been a horrible incident at ANY school. The fact that it was a “Montessori” school is purely coincidental Bad teachers exist everywhere.

  • Dawn

    yeah. That is so not Montessori. Did the school have an AMS accreditation? Were the teachers certified in Montessori? The name ‘MONTESSORI’ is not trademarked so anybody can open a school and call it a Montessori school. However, only schools meeting stringent criteria are worthy of an AMS accreditation, so parents beware.

    I am a Montessori toddler teacher and that is something we would NEVER do, even with a two-year-old! It goes against EVERYTHING Maria Montessori believed.

  • cpc20

    I went to a montessori preschool and they wouldnt let me use the because we were in story circle causing me to wet my pants. I was 4. my punishment was wearing boys clothes and underwear the rest of the day. They were always doing things to shame behavior into changing.