Tuesday, 19 June 2018

Why We Should Stop Leaving Our Children Hanging with No

As we enter the phase of testing boundaries with Benedict, I am reminded of something we did which I felt was important in developing Jerome’s sense of acceptable, and unacceptable, behaviour.

A few weeks ago Benedict was in our bathroom playing with band-aids, as he had been reminded not to do many times. When we found him and reiterated the boundary, he smiled and, keeping eye contact, continued to open a band-aid.

Tharin and I looked at each other, quickly weighing our options.

And then I got down on the floor with him, opened the drawer where the bandaids belong, and gently, firmly, helped him to replace the band-aids.

I know you love to stick the band-aids. I will not allow you to waste band-aids, though. Would you like to stick stickers instead? 

With an enthusiastic yeah we headed to the table for some sticker work. He hasn’t gone back to the band-aids since.

Are We Giving Our Children the Wrong Message?

At that time, Benedict knew what the boundary was, and he decided to push against it, anyway.


When toddlers push against boundaries, it is a communication in many ways, though I will be focussing on only one of them today.

That Benedict knew the boundary and pushed against it anyway shows he wanted the satisfaction of doing the forbidden activity more than he wanted to make me happy. He was following a strong developmental need or interest, and more than needing discipline, he needed me to see this need and to redirect him.

In Montessori, it is: the task of the educator of young children lies in seeing that the child does not confound good with immobility, and evil with activity.*

If following the rules means always having to stop doing something interesting, if enforcing a boundary always involves a punishment, might the child begin to associate being good with repression?

It doesn't always work to give the child a redirection, but when it does fit naturally into the circumstances, I have found the effects to be so much more lasting.

While you should not be afraid to stick to boundaries, especially if you are aware of why the child is testing them, giving them a yes to turn to will often demonstrate the boundary, by contrast, more effectively than anything else.

Putting this Method in Practice

There are so many ways we can use this simple method, offering a yes statement instead of a no, to encourage positive behaviors, while keeping consistent boundaries.

For example:
I will not allow you to spit on us. You may go spit in the sink or blow instead.
I will not allow you to jump on the bed. You may go jump on the trampoline, or jump over a pillow on the ground.
I will not allow you to colour on the table. You may get yourself a piece of paper and colour a picture on there.

What are some ways you can give your child a yes to turn to when you need to enforce a boundary?

Thank you for reading! If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to contact me. I would also love to hear any suggestions for posts you would like me to write about. And if you are interested in following along in our daily adventures, follow us on Instagram where I post daily.

God bless,
Olivia Fischer

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