In our Montessori classroom, our teachers are not encouraged to say words that discourage children from being children and from exploring. Words that demean children or appear to sound condescending are not allowed. So how do we say no and mean it? We are often challenged by children who try and I really mean try to test those boundaries we’ve so carefully fenced… but there are ways to turn harsh NOs to positive ways of saying no. And of course, mean it.
Over the years raising my own childre & working with many many other children/students.. I’ve learnt (rather slowly) the art of the positive no. What can we do to correct the no-way-hosei? The first step is to refrain from excessive use of the word NO. Yup, I know! Your head’s screaming Nooooooo! But hear me out and trust me, over time it will work.
One way is to create diversion to something positive so the immediate response to what your child is saying or doing can come out more positively. Take my son for example, buds_chubs is at the phase where everything he picks up goes into his mouth. When the girls take turns to care for him or play with him; I observe. I get quite flustered they’re saying no to him a lot especially when they cannot handle him or at their wits end seeing nothing works or nothing can humour the baby. If everything’s a NO, then what & when is deemed okay to be a yes? Here’s sharing a scenario.
Baby attracts attention, starts giving out loud calling sounds. Picks up a remote controller nearby and puts it in his mouth. DD1 comes in and yells, “NO, not the remote baby.” She snatches it away. Baby gets bored very quickly & tries to reach for my iPod. In comes DD2 and hollers, oh no no no baby, not the iPod too! Finally, DD2 brought baby out to watch some tv and he starts to get restless. He has nothing to hold or do. He decides to suck on his fingers. All of it at once. Both sisters almost simultaneously tugs at his little fist and pulls it away from his mouth. Needless to say, the baby starts bawling.
I come over and did emergency rescue for my poor chubs.
Me : I do not remember doing those things to either one of you when you were babies. I cannot recall saying the word NO that much either. Let mommy try. You tell me if it works.
Me to baby : Mommy’s here baby. What would you like? Do you want this? Pointing to remote. He reached out his hand to grab it. Almost instinctively he slowly moves it into his mouth. I tell him calmly : This remote allows you to watch your baby shows. Look. I gently wrap my hand around his and let his finger touch numbers two and five for the Baby’s First channel and familiar baby music comes on. He does not seem to enjoy much of that, hence getting restless soon enough. I showed him the iPod and he starts shifting on my lap excitedly. Before he decided to put it in his mouth, I told him I can use it to play his favorite songs on you tube. He sits still long enough to finish six or seven songs and gets restless. Would you like your teething ring? He bites on it for abit and later gives a small cry. I said to baby : You must be hungry, here’s a biscuit. You CAN bite biscuits. Biscuits are for eating so you can put biscuits in your mouth.
He smiles n eats it happily. The girls looked at one another and went… Orhhh… DD2 the typical inquisitive one asked, “But mommy.. he’s a baby, he doesn’t understand.. so he doesn’t know.” My reply was, “Well, if you realize sweetie… he didn’t understand you when you screamed NO in his face either. To top it off, you snatched from him too. Snatched from the baby whom you said didn’t know any better.. The baby sensing calmness in our voice allows him to listen better. Whether or not he understands he will slowly learn that each time he tries to place things in his mouth, some of them aren’t allowed and they actually do something for him. Like turning on the fan or tv and stuff.
Truth be told, the next time buds_chubs wanted to bang the table… the girls redirected him to a musical instrument or toy that he has and he willingly played with it. I just smiled and showed them my thumbs up sign. They smile back and womehow knew it was an affirmative gesture, that they are doing things right. So come to think of it, I didn’t hafta use the word no to three children at one go.
A game parents can play is the YES or NO game. This activity can be played at any time and even acts as a good traveling activity for our young ones. It helps develop listening skills, association skills, thinking skills, provides language enrichment and skill in decision making.
Invite children to answer varying statements by either replying YES or NO. The statements should stimulate a child’s thinking and encourage him or her to reason or ask more questions. Try “Mommy cooks in the bathroom.” Or “a chair is for sitting.” For older kids, you can make sentence cards to play them to encourage reading. A logical and a confident yes or no earns them a star on let’s say a square lined exercise book. Whoever completes all the boxes with a star stamps or star stickers wins the game and can ask for wins like a nice massage or a one minute hug or even to prepare tea party of a plate of cookies with milk.
Start saying no and mean it but assertively. In everyday’s teachable moments, do at times allow for the emphasis that the word no is not always right but, can and should be used appropriately. Like NO when strangers beckon you to follow them places even if the places are fun… Or to say NO, THANK YOU.. to candy when you’re unwell and so on. Give yourself and your child some time to work with this out, for Rome was never built in a day. All my best and love. These are only suggestions you can try. Hope it helps somewhat.