La Tela di Carlotta
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Are all the NOs you say to your kids necessary?

Jan 28, 2019

How many times a day do you say NO to your kids?

As I was reflecting on this today, I realized that nowadays I say fewer and fewer NO to my kids. Not because I’m a “only say yes” kind of parent, but because after experimenting with NOs over and over again and watching other moms deal with the tantrums that NOs generate, I realized that many of the NOs parents say are completely unnecessary.

Montessori has taught me that parents should trust their kids with responsibilities and that those responsibilities have to be within the limits that we adults set. But what are the limits? According to Montessori, parents need to set FEW, CLEAR limits and say only the NOs necessary to enforce them. Easier said than done, right?!

To make it easier for myself to understand the limits I wanted to set and the NOs I was willing to enforce, I decided that in my house there are two kinds of NOs: the SOFA NO and the FIRE NO.


The SOFA NO is the NO I can avoid, and convert into YES (SOFA NOs are really YESs!). Why do I call them SOFA NOs? Oliver loves to take all the pillows off the sofa, and he even learnt to unzip the seat pillows, which he uses to “build a house”. It used to drive me crazy. I fought it for a long time, we had lots of power struggles that ended in tears, and out of exhaustion I sometimes let him do it, thus making the limit not clear anymore.

One day, I decided it wasn’t worth it anymore: it was an unnecessary no. Now, he can do whatever he wants with the sofa, as long as he puts it back together afterwards (sometimes he does it all, sometimes he puts two pillows and I help with the rest). And as always, when you let kids see their ideas through, they surprise you: Oliver has invented so many creative and entertaining games, like using the seats as a slide for his cars or as boats to be safe from crocodiles.

In my house, SOFA NOs are the ones that don’t really harm anybody and anything, and I’m not willing to enforce. Standing on a chair is a SOFA NO. Going around the house naked in winter or taking their jacket off at the park when it’s cold are SOFA NOs. Putting shoes on in the wrong foot is a SOFA NO (Emily leaves often with her shoes the other way around). Leaving the table before everybody has finished is a SOFA NO (I’ll ask them to please stay, but if they don’t want to, they’re free to go play—they’re 2 and 4, after all!). You get the gist.


FIRE NOs are for danger, like touching fire! Opening the oven when it’s working is a FIRE NO. Oliver lifting Emily up on the balcony to look down is a FIRE NO. The kids running uncontrollably on the side walk when cars are speeding by is a FIRE NO. Harming others is a FIRE NO. Crossing the street without stopping at (or off) the zebra crossing is a FIRE NO. These are the NOs I will enforce no matter what, no matter how much crying and screaming I’ll get in return.

Over the years I also realized that respect gets its own category, the RESPECT NO. Respect for people and environment is very important to us. We explain these NOs by talking about how our actions make others feel in a certain way and might hurt the environment. Throwing a piece of trash on the ground is a RESPECT NO. Killing an insect is a RESPECT NO. Ripping flowers is a RESPECT NO. Coloring floors and walls is a RESPECT NO. Peeing in a flower pot near tables at a restaurant is a RESPECT NO. Kids are pure, kind and empathetic beings, they’ll accept and respect these NOs better than any other.

My generation and yours were raised with so many NOs, but NOs are not only overrated, they’re counterproductive, they don’t let kids express their full potential and show us they’re capable. NOs don’t let kids show us that they deserve our trust.

Next time you say NO to your kids, ask yourself if it’s a FIRE NO or a SOFA NO, make a mental note, and recalculate route for the next time. I promise you will all benefit from it.

Tell me what you think

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The blog

I write mainly about Montessori, parenthood, and multilingualism. Here are some recent posts.

Mums, dads & kids
We don't know how to be parents, we learn it everyday as we go. This is my way of motherhood, the small victories and the bitter defeats, my inconvenient truths and the endless life lessons. And also all the baby products and toys we love the most.
How to leave the playground without power struggles
This is life
Audiobooks of real-life stories for kids
Let's not project our insecurities onto our kids
Question authorities
Parents need to be constructively selfish
One more step towards self-acceptance
When you think your marriage is over after kids.
We forgot our 10-year wedding anniversary!
One day a few years ago my husband came home and said, "Why don't we put a mattress on the floor in the baby room? It'd be much more natural". "Never" was my reply. That's how our Montessori journey started. Since then we've been living, breathing and applying the philosophy at home day in and day out, starting from ourselves. Because educating children starts from the parents.
Montessori express: change the sentences into positive
Montessori express: everything is NOT fine
My baby cries desperately in the car (15 months)
Take care of the mother behind the woman
Montessori express: ask instead of correcting
Montessori express: describe instead of criticising
An example of how I practice empathy with my kids
How I show empathy to my children
Happy 4th birthday, Emily
Montessori New Year's tradition
Living sustainably
Living sustainably for me doesn’t only mean to have a more eco-friendly lifestyle. It means to make decisions that are sustainable for our planet, the people on it, but also for our life, our lifestyle, and our happiness. It means to take any daily chance to evolve and be happier, healthier, kinder, more responsible and more caring human beings—the only sustainable way for a meaningful future.
Face yoga is an act of self love
Why you should wear the same outfit twice on Instagram
The power of creating habits (and why you should do it, even if you then break them!)
Responsible eating is the diet of the future (Would you like to teach it to your kids?)
The power of NOT complaining: can you do it for a whole month?
Clean up your planet, please!
Infographic: 8 steps to switch to cloth nappies (a guide for reluctant parents)
A personal note on happiness
A personal note on social media
A change of life always widens your horizons
New to La Tela?
I’ve prepared collections on various topics that I’ve written over the years. Perhaps you’ll find one that interests you.


We sold everything to travel the world for two years. We're currently in New Zealand.


In 2020 I wrote 4 books for the Italian collection “Gioca and Impara con il metodo Montessori” curated by Grazia Honegger Fresco. The collection is a project by Il Corriere della Sera and La Gazzetta dello Sport.

We also implemented the workshops of the last 15 volumes of the collection with Oliver and Emily.


I update Instagram almost every day to be "close" to my family far away.

Why La Tela di Carlotta?
I dreamed of the name La Tela di Carlotta. One morning I woke up and in my dreams I had created a blog named just like the American novel (Charlotte's Web). Many years and endless ups and downs later, this web of thoughts and stories is my work. It took me a long time to understand what kind of online presence I wanted and today I know: I'm transparent, I show real life, I don't advertise, I only recommend sustainable brands (and not only because they pay me) and I believe in the value of my blog and my courses—because if we don't believe in the value of our work, no one will believe in it for us.
Carlotta dreaming of La Tela
I know! I don't want it to be over yet either.