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The Human Tendencies February 21, 2013


Human Tendencies are universal characteristics of all people across all cultures.
They are characteristic of every child born and allow us to meet our physical needs
(food, shelter, clothing, and defense) and spiritual needs (love, beauty, intellectual
needs, and religion).It is essential to understand that the Human Tendencies are not
abilities we are born with, but potentials to be developed. To the degree that we
support the unfolding of these human tendencies will determine how that human can
make full use of these tendencies for the rest of his life. The more we as adults
understand about the Human Tendencies the more we can help our children succeed
- not only today, but also in their adult lives. Two unique gifts are given to the human
1. The intellect reasoning mind
2. The will love
These two gifts allow the tendencies to construct the human uniqueness. The
tendencies are factors that operate the vehicles of the intellect, enabling the
human to learn about and understand his environment. All humans have some typical
characteristics in the human tendencies. While individual outcomes can vary
greatly, human tendencies are ordered to the goal of fulfilling human needs.

Characteristics of Tendencies
Tendencies can be and are latent at varying periods of life, particularly from
conception to shortly after birth. They can strengthen slowly or quickly for varying
lengths of times, but are hereditary and in their essence unchanging. Human
The Human Tendencies February 21, 2013


tendencies have functioned from the creation of man and still operate today.
Tendencies develop from the humans need to survive and adapt to his environment.
They operate in mature individuals but are clearly present and recognized in the
child, particularly during the period up to age six. Tendencies are a driving force
behind work towards betterment of the individual person, his family and society and
humankind as a whole. Every tendency supports the others as they are all inter-

to know/no reason
the mathematical mind
The Human Tendencies February 21, 2013


Each human need and tendency has historical implications, as well as cultural,
modern, practical, educational, spiritual and physical implications.
Dr. Maria Montessori determined that there are human tendencies that exist in
each individual which stimulate her/him within the society. Human tendencies are
unchanging and individual. They help humans to survive and adapt in a particular time
and environment. Maria Montessori distilled 10 Human Tendencies which you can read
about below.
Any activity we engage in needs to have a sense of beginning and steps towards
accomplishing a goal. If we don't have order to our thought patterns and actions, we
cannot accomplish anything. Without order there is chaos and confusion.
Is an essential social bond - there are approximately 7,000 languages being
spoken in the world today. Without communication we are unable to function in a
social group. The child is born without speech but learns through an arduous effort
of babbling how to speak. The child learns the language(s) she hears. She learns
spoken language as well as body language. Even before the child can speak, she has a
tendency for communication.
It can also be defined as an activity with purpose or constructive activity. The
tendency for work must be developed in a child. If the child is always fed, waited on,
The Human Tendencies February 21, 2013


and carried she will not become independent because she will be accustomed to doing
Humans start life by exploring and curiosity drives us as adults to continue
exploring new ways to understand life including travel, education, and a relationship
with a higher being. The tendency for exploration can be seen in the way a baby looks
around, a 9 month old crawls away, and a preschooler goes to school. How can we
nurture and encourage this drive? If the child is constantly restrained and kept
quiet, he will not develop the gift of exploration. It is our task as adults to find
productive, satisfying ways for the child to explore.
It is necessary for exploration. To find your way in a new situation you must
orient yourself - think of yourself in a foreign city for the first time. Basic
orientation is necessary to accomplish anything. In addition to physical orientation
to the land, you must orient yourself to the customs of the city - do you shake hands
or bow? What do you eat?
The infant first orients herself to the mother, then the family. A child needs
consistency, order, and stability for orientation. Orientation is also a way to use the
mathematical mind. Through orientation we observe patterns like similarities and
differences. This discernment sharpens the intellect and mathematical mind.
The power of abstraction
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Means to conceptualize something that is not concretely present - to grasp
the essence of a thing. The power of abstraction gives us the ability to create
inventions. This tendency will only develop if the child has very clear, concrete
experiences she can put her hands on. The child must have concrete life experiences
to lay the foundation for the mind to take off into the world of abstraction.
Every object we use is an achievement of exactness. The great inventors
pursued and pursued until they reached a point of exactness - just think of Thomas
Edison's over 10,000 attempts to invent the light bulb! As Montessori teachers, we
can develop this exactness through our exact actions in presentations of lessons.
From a precise action develops a precise mind.
In order to achieve exactness there must be repetition. Acquiring a new skill
required repetition to reach the point of exactness. Another word for repetition is
practice and practice makes perfect. A young child with little experience and poor
motor control doesn't have the coordination or movement required for many exact
motions such as getting dressed. The adult tends to say 'let me do that for you.'
Then the child is used to having everything done for them because they couldn't do
it well in the beginning. We must give our children the opportunity to practice so
they will become proficient in the daily tasks of life.
The Human Tendencies February 21, 2013


Striving towards perfection is a human tendency. That why we repeat, why we
strive for exactness. We strive for perfection to transcend ourselves and connect
with a perfect creator, but we must remember we can't be perfect, only God is
perfect. This tendency of perfection is not always seen in adults and is not part of
American culture. We live in a consumer society with the mindset that things are to
be replaced with something newer and better.
The human tendency that allows us to restrain an impulse. Not buying junk
food, driving the speed limit, or continuing to read are all examples of self-control.
When we delay gratification, or practice self-control, we are making a sacrifice for
the greater good.
Humans are constantly confronted with choices. We love and believe in
freedom, and freedom means being able to make choices. Everything we do in a
Montessori classroom leads the child to make choices. But freedom can't exist
without structure. We protect freedom through a structure of limits which helps
the child make the right choices, thus the child gradually develops self-control.

Role of the Adult and the Environment
The child depends on the adult to provide the environment and the opportunity
to use these tendencies to their fullest in order to fulfill their needs. The adult
should provide for each tendency as listed above, with the understanding that while
each one is important throughout life, there are sensitive periods for each one in
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which needs and other tendencies are most fully strengthened and matured. The
physical environment should be simple, beautiful and orderly, with plenty of room to
move around, as well as an arrangement which requires both gross and fine motor
movement; minimal changes only as needed and with the participation of all affected
A regular routine should be established with the children, again with the
children participating in any necessary changes, i.e. with forewarning or other
preparation. The child thrives on hearing real language, enunciated clearly, not baby
talk or watered down sentences; he needs guidance and advice for specific social
situations as they present themselves.
The child needs to see excellent role models, who perhaps make mistakes but
are quick to recognize them, ask forgiveness and improve themselves.
The child needs opportunities for rest and reflection after moment of intense
work, therefore simpler activities should always be present in the environment to
which the child can return at any time.
The adult should allow the child to participate in the world around him, opening
and closing doors and drawers, helping to prepare or cleanup for various family and
social activities.
The adult should move at the childs pace; there should be substantial enough
time to allow for plenty of repetition without unnecessary interruption; materials
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and activities which require exactness, including glass and other fragile items which
require exactness of movement; materials at the childs level to promote usage.
Mistakes should be expected and almost encouraged, with materials, activities
and words set up in a manner which allows for auto-correction.
The human tendencies are a part of human nature. If you inspect human
nature, it is hard to deny their existence. To respond to the existence of human
tendencies, we must become new adults. We need to become familiar with the
child, remove obstacles that may interfere with the child's interaction with the
environment, and to prepare the environment and attach the child to it.
Observe the children every day to see that all of the human tendencies free
to operate. If they are not observable, then something needs to be fixed in the
environment. Watch for the tendencies and think of them as signposts, check the
map and stay on the correct route.
A Montessori education supports these basic tendencies:
To Explore

To Move

To Be Independent

To Make Decisions

To have Order

To Create
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To Work

To Repeat

To Concentrate

To Perfect One's Efforts

To Express Oneself

To Share With a Group

To Develop Self-Control

Humans are constantly confronted with choices. We love and believe in
freedom, and freedom means being able to make choices. Everything we do in a
Montessori classroom leads the child to make choices. But freedom can't exist
without structure. We protect freedom through a structure of limits which helps
the child make the right choices, thus the child gradually develops self-control.
Education must support the Human Tendencies.
These inherited treasures are potentialities which each child is born with.
The responsibility of the educator lies in the recognition of the Human Tendencies
and the support of their development. Education should be an aid to life. As
Montessori educators we concern ourselves with providing for the child the optimal
environment where each of these tendencies can flourish and hold the child in good
stead and she becomes a young adult and beyond.
The Human Tendencies February 21, 2013


"There is in the soul of the child an impenetrable secret that is
gradually revealed as he develops"
- Maria Montessori
Spend time noticing these tendencies in your child as well as yourself!