On The Topic of Competition

You may have noticed that in Montessori schools, we do not typically encourage competition between children. Our lack of traditional grading is one obvious marker of this approach, but you will notice that the lack of peer competition threads itself pretty much throughout the entire program. This is quite intentional, and we work hard to give children a foundation built on the competition with oneself, rather than with others.

It is important to note, however, that a Montessori education does not leave children unprepared for “the real world”. We recognize that competition is a part of life for many, and we work hard to cultivate characteristics that will allow children to engage in healthy, fulfilling competitive experiences.

Curious to learn more about what we do? In this post, we not only explain why we favor internal motivation but what we do to help nurture well-rounded and adaptable children.

Internal versus External Motivation

One of our core values as Montessorians is that we believe intrinsic motivation is far more powerful than external rewards. This has been the foundation of our educational model for over a century. In recent years, studies have backed the theory that we are most successful when we are driven by our own internal motivations, not perceived rewards (like prizes, grades, or money). Information on one such study can be found here.

How We Prepare Children for Healthy, Real-World Competition

Montessori schools can sometimes feel like a bit of a protective bubble. As educators, we need to recognize this and make sure we are preparing children for what comes next. Montessori students tend to be highly successful when they eventually move on to more traditional schools, regardless of when that might be. The following character traits are cultivated throughout a child’s time with us, and we believe this is part of what it takes to create successful and fulfilled people in the long run.

Self Confidence
We all like having the ability to believe in ourselves, and we do whatever we can to guide our children toward feeling the same way. From a very young age, Montessori children learn to do things for themselves. They are respected by the adults in their lives and their personal autonomy is honored.
When a toddler sweeps up her own crumbs, she feels it. When a four-year-old makes his own sandwich for the first time, he feels it. When an eight-year-old solves a challenging long division problem, they feel it.
We build routines and structures that allow children to accomplish big things, and to revel in the feelings of self-accomplishment. After many, many of these experiences, children develop a strong sense of self, and an “I can do it” attitude.
In Montessori classrooms, we know what children are capable of. We know that traditional settings often expect less than what is developmentally appropriate for them. When our students feel driven to work hard on challenging tasks, failure becomes an early and welcome part of their experience.
As adults, we often equate failure with negative outcomes. In reality, failure is nothing more than a learning experience, and we can use that experience to guide us toward mastery. When foll