Instead of Saying “No”

Setting Limits Montessori Style

We’ve all heard it in recent years – “refrain from saying “no” to your child”. It seems impossible, but still, a goal worthy of achieving. Sure, children need to learn to accept “no” as an answer sometimes. But shouldn’t they be entitled to a reason, just as we, as adults would expect? Children under the age of 3 years are still developing their sense of reasoning, but at the same time should not be subjected to the authoritarian “because I said so” reasoning strategy. Since the foundation or reasoning skills is being developed, they are as much entitled to a reason as we adults would expect for ourselves. Here are some strategies for “re-framing” your “NO” reaction.

Guide Instead of Control

Obedience: Why Do You Have To Tell Them Five Times?

“It may not look important to you, but a child’s play is his work — that’s how young humans learn. That’s a good thing–you want a child who’s self-motivated, rather than expecting you to entertain him.”

You also want a child who is self-disciplined rather than you needing to control him or her. How do you create a self-disciplined child? Focus on guiding your child in making good choices instead of forcing compliance without the child’ cooperation.

“Terrible Twos”/Sensitive Period for Order

I haven’t been posting so diligently this week because we have recently taken in a second foster child, 26 months old, which has turned out to be a huge challenge for our family. It’s difficult to say how much of his behavior is previously learned, and how much can be attributed to the confusion and changes in routine he has experienced in the past week alone. Regardless, helping the child to adapt to his new environment, while attempting to eliminate further obstacles in his development while he is in our care, no matter how temporary, is our main concern for him.

Montessori teaches that during a child’s second year of life, the child typically begins experiencing a “sensitive period” for order that could last throughout the second year and begin to fade going into the third year. During this time, caregivers must pay attention to routine and try to be as consistent as possible. Tantrums or outbursts, that happen so often at this age and have led to the idea of “terrible two’s” could be attributed to even the slightest of change in the child’s daily routines and experiences. A foster child of this age who is being moved around and placed into a strange home and expected to learn new rules, immediately faces a huge developmental obstacle.

Whether a child is your biological child, a step-child, a foster child, an adopted child, or a child in your daycare classroom, the caregiver’s role is to understand the child’s developmental needs and respond in a caring, consistent, and loving way. This is not always easy. It seems like the child may be constantly testing you and misbehaving on purpose just to make your life miserable!

Although I don’t typically advocate use of “time out”, sometimes, some version of this is necessary for foster children and daycare students who come into a new routines in their early years. It depends on what the child is used to and has already learned to respond to. Life at home may be vastly different from life at school or in another home. In the case of our foster child, it became clear to us that even at only two years old, he has become used to loud angry voices in order to comply with requests for appropriate behavior. Every child needs consistency of routine, and tests boundaries in order to find out where the limits are. It’s important to set boundaries reasonably and firmly, but without being angry at the child or losing control of your emotions along the way, no matter how frustrating the child’s behavior is. Remember, he is particularly sensitive to change during the second year of life, and needs the security of limits and boundaries, as well as calm and understanding caregivers and a pair of loving arms.

Don’t Ignore the Tantrums

How to handle tantrums? I’ll be the first to admit, I struggled with this often during my previous teaching days. Especially in a class of 28 children, I could not spend a lot of time giving attention to tantrums, but I also felt that I could have actually encouraged tantrums by giving attention to them. In adopting the view now that misbehavior is a child’s way of expressing a need, it is critical to approach tantrums with dignity and respect for the child. I appreciate the suggestions offered in this article as steps to take to do this. It’s one thing to discuss and know what “not” to do, but another to have a bag of tricks to use when you are in a true tantrum moment and trying to convince yourself not to ignore your child.

Choosing Battles vs. Setting Limits

You often hear teachers, child care workers, and parents use the phrase “choose your battles”. In some areas of life, this is a helpful solution to our problems. But in regards to raising children, this article suggests that it may not be a wise approach. I had not thought about that phrase in the way this author suggests. Although I try to stay away from using clichés in general, I have acted in this manner as a teacher many times. I will now think twice and speak up when I hear this, as it is so prevalent in our society. When we say we are choosing battles, it doesn’t mean to simply not let the small stuff bother you. To a child, it is confusing and inconsistent, and can lead to insecurity and negative behavior. Children are most secure when there are clear and consistent limits and boundaries. Reading this article changed my thinking on the attitude behind the phrase “choosing your battles”.

Understanding Your Toddler

I really enjoyed reading this article. It is a well-written account of what a toddler would say to a parent if s/he could. With as much experience and training as I have had with this age group, you’d think I would already understand and practice this. I do understand it, but often in the heat of the moment my “instincts” tell me something else, and I don’t always practice what I’m about to preach. Of course, these are not instincts speaking, they are the voices of strongly imbedded traditions of child rearing practices, that I was raised by, and I instantly revert to them because it’s been in my experience for so long. It’s difficult to break these habits, but essential for the emotional development of our children that we do. I always find that re-reading articles such as these are important reminders of the vision that I have to change the course of childhood education to a more peaceful journey.