LIMIT SETTING PART ONE

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One of the ways that I show my children how much they mean to me is by showing up for them again and again.  Especially when it is hard and uncomfortable.  Setting limits for our children is one of the greatest gifts we can give them.

 I am sharing some strategies for setting limits with young children.  Next week, we can talk more about setting boundaries as the children get older.  Of course, this is what works for my family.  Take it as you see fit and adapt it to fit the needs of your children and your family.

Limit Setting for Young Children

Scenario one:

In five more minutes, it will be time to stop playing and come inside to wash hands for dinner. (5 minutes pass)  Five minutes is over and now it is time to stop playing and come inside for dinner. Child ignores me.  Bend down and make eye contact.  “Please stop your hands from collecting rocks and walk inside with me. I will help you wash up.” Child resists, “NO!!! I'm not finished. Can I have five more minutes?” “No, now is time.” Child cries and stamps feet in protest.  “You really wish I would give you more time, but I am not going to.  Dinner is warm and now is time to come inside.  Even if you cry and yell, I am still going to bring you inside for dinner.”    

It is okay for your child to cry and protest.  It is your job to remain as unflustered as you can and to carry on with what needs to happen.  Letting your child know that you are in charge and that you will take care of them, no matter what, is what is important.  


Scenario Two:  

Your child is running ahead of you on the sidewalk on your way to the park.  You are okay with it.  Your child knows that you are comfortable with her a few feet ahead.  You've already already practiced where, when and how to stop when it is time.  You see your child nearing the corner and you clearly and firmly tell your child to stop and wait.  Your child is daydreaming and excited to get to the park.  She doesn't stop, but continues walking around the corner.  In a firm and controlled voice,you say,  STOP NOW.  You catch up to your child and hold her hand the rest of the way to the park.  Your child is upset.  She didn't mean to disobey you and she doesn't want you to hold her hand all the way to the park.  She was enjoying her new-found freedom of walking a few feet ahead. Your child cries and pulls away.  You hold her hand more firmly and offer to pick her up.  You explain, "It is my job to keep you safe.  When you do not stop the second I say stop, I know I need to be touching you to keep you safe.  I can carry you or you can walk holding my hand.  Even if you cry and even if you wish I would let go, I am not going to.  I am going to hold your hand until we are safely at the park."

It is okay for your child to cry and protest.  It is your job to remain as unflustered as you can and to carry on with what needs to happen.  Letting your child know that you are in charge and that you will take care of them, no matter what, is what is important.  


Scenario Three:

Your child is tired. The school day was long and dinner cannot come soon enough.  You offer your child a bag of carrots but he wants a lollipop.  You say, "Here are some carrots, I know how hungry you feel and it is going to take me a few minutes to get dinner together."  Child (shouting, eyes narrowing, feet stomping), "NO! I want a lollipop.  Give me a lollipop!”Child melting down.  You say, "I will not allow you to speak to me in that way.  You are hungry and you wish you could have a lollipop and I am saying no.  It is okay to be sad and mad about it.  It is not ok to yell at me.  I am leaving the carrots here on the table.  If you change your mind, you are welcome to eat them.  I think they will give you energy and help you feel better." You walk away to make dinner.  


It is okay for your child to cry and protest.  It is your job to remain as unflustered as you can and to carry on with what needs to happen.  Letting your child know that you are in charge and that you will take care of them, no matter what, is what is important.  

I usually try to talk to my child the day after the incident.  In a light tone, I will say something like, "Remember yesterday when you really wanted a lollipop? You really wished I would give you one, but I didn't.  That's because it is my job to feed you healthy food to help you grow. Maybe you would like to have a lollipop after lunch today, instead."  This kind of conversation allows your child to process what happened, as well as the opportunity to talk more about it if they want to.

Here are some key phrases to try…

“I am the grown-up in charge, and that’s what I decided.”

 “ It is my job to keep you safe.”

“ Even if you cry, I will not change my mind.”


I hope this is helpful to some of you.  I believe that being confident in how I parent allows my children to be confident in their ability to be who they are.  No matter what. 

-Lizzie