Saying No – The Montessori Way

Parenting is a delicate balance of knowing how to raise your kids with integrity while also preparing them for the real world. From learning the difference between positive and negative language to what we feed them, there are so many things we have to pay attention to when raising well-adjusted kids.

Sometimes this means doing things that seem counter-intuitive to make sure our kids are actually hearing what we are saying and learning from situations.

Taking as many opportunities to talk to children without saying “no” is so important. Parenting without negative language like “no”, “don’t, and “stop” is an important part every single day. It’s all about lessening their use to rewire our kids’ brains for positivity.

Parenting without saying no and creating boundaries for our children with intentional wording.

The way we are hard wired as humans is to listen to the sentence structure. In fact, in studying linguistics, we often don’t “listen” to what is being said, we only “hear” the intent, many times also not getting the first word. This is called feature- deletion and, according to Stanford, is just one of many linguistic rules in how our brain processes the sentences we hear.

We sometimes hear the first part of a sentence, almost always hear the last part, but rarely hear the middle unless we have our complete attention on the person talking to us. And really, what young child is giving us their undivided attention at all times? So when we add unnecessary negative language we force our children to process the syntax of what we say at least twice.

Beyond just the way we hear, it’s also important for all of us to have clear directions. If we are given vague instructions, it leaves a lot of grey area. Then our kids are wired to ask “what can I do?”

This is because there are a thousand alternatives to “not” doing something, but only one course of action that should be done when told specifically what to do.

So why would we not want to adopt a system that helps our children listen to us better? In fact, why would we not want to rewire our kids’ minds to hear us, to respond, and to feel heard?

So how do we remove negative words when talking to our children?

It’s really easy to say no… WAY too easy. So it’s not going to be a cake walk to retrain your mind to ditch negative words and actions like “no”, “stop”, “dont”, “can’t”, etc. but it is possible.

Instead of saying “I can’t talk right now” when waiting on hold on the phone and your child comes to ask a question, say “I am on the phone right now. I can talk to you in a little bit”. We do this because we are focusing on what the child is going to hear. If the child is not giving her undivided attention, he/she may only hear “talk right now”. Instead, we want them to hear “on the phone” and “in a little bit”.
Likewise, if your child is in danger and is too close to the street we do not want to yell “Don’t go in the street!” because we don’t want them to hear the last half of it. We want them to hear “Come here please!” or “Move away from the street!” or in a quick pinch “DANGER, MOVE!”

Alternatives to saying no & using negative language with kids

We replace “don’t touch” with “please keep your hands to yourself”/”please keep your hands in your pockets”. Is it possible to discipline without saying no?

Yes! This has everything to do with the idea of being intentional with our words and giving clear instructions to our children. Using positive parenting phrases actually has the ability to set clearer boundaries than the word no itself.