14 Potentialities of Man – Dr Montessori

Potential of a child
Dr. Montessori’s theories are in line with modern psychologists who acknowledge the influence of both nature and nurture in the development of the child.

She writes about the ‘inherited characteristics’ and ‘pre-determined patterns of behaviour’, but she also advocates the very strong influence of environmental conditions. Dr Montessori recognised the passive nature of the child and maintained that they pass through a period of absorbing all the sensations that come from the environment in which they live. She also recognised the strong active nature of the child which allows children to freedom to select their own activities spontaneously. Maria Montessori had great intuition and a marvellous insight to recognise that the growing baby had both keen sensitivities and a highly absorbent mind to take in impressions and learn patterns of human behaviour, cultural knowledge and skills through a series of personal experiences offered in the environment that surrounds him.

Dr. Montessori observed that nature has taken great care to give certain special sensitivities and a very receptive mind to aid the unconscious learning processes within the child which gradually build up a strata of knowledge in the subconscious, all of which play a vital part in the laying of the basic foundation of characteristics that will form the individual personality. From her observations of children, she formed the idea that a world of people could exist that would be an improvement on what was already in existence. She was convinced that the whole human condition could be improved if we would ‘follow the child’.

Montessori believed that all conflicts could be solved by developing the great potentialities of the human personality whilst the child is still ‘under construction’. She believed that the child possesses an intrinsic motivation towards his own self-construction. Maria Montessori’s concept of the child’s self-construction needs to be carefully explained. This idea is the central point of her whole educational philosophy.

Both the child rearing practices and educational methods she advocated are grounded in her ideas of the child’s self-construction. Montessori drew attention to her idea that the child has two ‘creative sensibilities’, an ‘absorbent mind’ and ‘sensitive periods’, both of which are internal aids which make the child’s adaptation to the environment possible.

Potentialities of Man

Montessori had very specific ideas about the way children grow and develop. She believed that we are all born with a unique combination of certain predominant behaviour patterns, universal among humans, which she called the ‘tendencies of man’ or the ‘human potentialities’. Montessori observed children all over the world, in a variety of settings and she was able to identify fourteen specific traits which she considered to make up the totality of the human potentialities.

  1. exploration
  2. order
  3. gregariousness
  4. communication
  5. abstraction
  6. curiosity
  7. calculation
  8. work
  9. repetition
  10. concentration
  11. self-control
  12. perfection
  13. creativity
  14. independence

Growth of one’s potentialities proceeds according to natural staged or sensitive periods. If one’s urge is satisfied by suitable environmental conditions, then growth will occur – the potentialities are fulfilled.


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