Montessori Article: Kid's Talk: Teaching Temperance

March 17, 2007

Teaching Temperance

Temperance, one of the universal virtues, is comprised of personal strengths that protect against excess. Studies by positive psychologists indicate that strengths in forgiveness and mercy, humility and modesty, prudence and self-regulation help us temper our thoughts and actions.

Mohandas Gandhi lived a life of temperance. Gandhi gave us the example of how temperance is a way to change the world. The study of his life can show us ways to strengthen our own character to avoid the excesses that would create a life of unhappiness.

Being able to show forgiveness and mercy to others when you have been dealt with badly shows strength of character. It takes a strong person to forgive a misdeed and not fall into the trap of revenge. It takes strength to accept the shortcomings of others. It takes confidence in your strength to give people a second chance when they have fallen short of expectations. As Gandhi said about seeking revenge, ''An eye for an eye only ends up making the whole world blind.''

Letting one's accomplishments speak for themselves, seeking the worth of every person and being able to see each person's uniqueness in the grand scheme are the attributes of humility and modesty. To be humble and to be modest in today's jargon seem to mean being easily imposed upon or submissive. True humility and modesty are terms used for servant leadership. In effective leadership, you lead by showing patience and gentility in helping others, even though you may be better educated or wealthier than those around you. Humility and modesty show a character strength that is at the core of leaders.

Being attentive to possible hazards or risks and planning for the future are the fruits of being prudent. The word ''prudence'' comes from the word providence, meaning to plan ahead or having foresight. Today calling someone a prude is a derogatory term instead of referring to a person of strength and foresight. The strength of having prudence is that one is careful about one's choices, doesn't take unnecessary risks and avoids saying or doing things that might cause hardship to oneself or others later.

Exhibiting control over one's emotions, thoughts and actions is another distinguishing characteristic of temperance. Learning to control one's moods and appetites becomes inner strength. Being able to make yourself do something you might not want to do, while knowing that in the end it is the best course of action, is the hallmark of inner or self-discipline. Being able to self-regulate gives us the ability to meet our goals and objectives in life.

Gandhi told us, ''You must be the change you seek in the world.''

If we want to help our children to have character strengths to live in a world where life is not lived an eye for an eye, we must model the self-control, the foresight, the servant leadership and the forgiveness we seek in the world.

For more information about positive psychology, go to

Kids Talkā„¢ is a column dealing with early childhood development issues written by Maren Stark Schmidt. Mrs. Schmidt founded a Montessori school and holds a Masters of Education from Loyola College in Maryland.
She has over 25 years experience working with young children and holds teaching credentials from the Association Montessori Internationale. She is also Creative Director for a video-based reading series for children ages three to six, The Shining Light Reading Series. Contact her via e-mail at
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