Montessori and the Importance of Positive Language
The work of an educator/guide has never been easy. In today’s world, the need of the hour is for us to be able to build a deep and intrinsic sense of self-love and self-confidence. Language plays a key role in our accomplishing this goal and so it becomes important for us to talk today about the power of Positive Language.
Positive language encompasses every form of communication- from our body language, facial expression, tone of voice, to the words we speak; all must convey the same meaning and intention, with compassion and empathy. The words are chosen carefully to encourage children to be independent, intrinsically motivated, critical thinkers, and to respect the child. We want to foster the child’s inner guide without extrinsic reinforcements; such as giving any kind of rewards or punishments for their actions/decision. The child will complete a task because it is the right thing to do, associating a task with personal pride for a job well done, not the reward. The language we use in these situations will also weigh heavily on their development.
For instance; instead of saying, “Eat all your vegetables and I will give you a sticker.” It might help if we approached it with, “It is important to eat vegetables so our body and mind are healthy and strong.” Now the child knows the impact and you’ve created a platform of thinking within him/ her which helps the child to relate to facts. Honoring the child’s intellect by offering a clear and short explanation of the situation helps the child build independence and an inner sense of self-worth.
Conversations with children must be carried out in soft tones. We must bring ourselves to eye level with them, holding their gaze while talking to them. Standing high above them, looking down at them, while they crane their neck up, ends up creating a position of inequality. Our every attempt is to give the child an equal standing, helping them grow in their sense of self. We also tell them that we respect them and demonstrate we are present in the moment with them. Positive expressions help children become confident in their abilities.
Also, positive language focuses on acknowledging the effort, not just the outcome. For example, a child creates a painting. Instead of complimenting the child with, “That is so awesome, great job!”, we might want to reinforce and complement the effort, the sense of self. “I liked how you concentrated on the art work, and the different shades you created by mixing various colors, the strokes that you applied were even; you look like you enjoyed making this artwork, you must feel very proud of yourself.”
In a Montessori environment we avoid phrases such as “Your mom will be very proud if you do this,” “Good job,” “Do it for your dad” and “Show your friends how to behave.” It takes self-awareness and a lot of practice to improve our communication, verbal and non-verbal, on a daily basis, especially with children. The impact we can have on their self-esteem is a responsibility we take very seriously.
How we use language is everything. Children hear the words we use, with them, with other adults and within our family and community. Using appropriate and positive language has a lasting impact on how they will perceive themselves in the future and how they will treat others.
“Everything you say to your child is absorbed, catalogued and remembered” - Maria Montessori