There are times when setting a limit is necessary to help a child understand what is safe, acceptable and welcomed behavior.
Sometimes children will challenge limits, cry, protest or otherwise express how upset they feel about a limit. This is alright. Other times, you may originally want to set a limit but then change your mind. Setting limits is an important parenting tool and worthwhile to take the time to understand how to use it well.
Limits set with kindness build trust and encourage cooperation.
If you find yourself wondering if a limit is necessary or not, it can be helpful to ask yourself one or all of the five following questions:
1. How important is it to hold this limit?
Are you choosing to hold a limit to show you are in charge, to show you have parental power or because there is a genuine need here for the limit to be in place?
2. What can my child learn, if I hold this limit, even if they dislike it?
Are you letting a limit slide to prevent a power struggle, tantrum or public meltdown? Is that wise, or can you trust your child to move through their disappointment and learn to trust your guidance?
3. If I don’t hold this limit, can I (the parent) live with the resulting consequences?
If you intend to set a limit due to safety reasons and chose to let it go, are you ok with the risk your child now faces?
If you wanted your child to get enough rest, but you don’t set a limit on bed time, can you deal with a tired child in a few minutes, the next day without losing your cool or will you resent the situation and resort to yelling?
4. If I let this limit go, am I sending the right message to my child?
Reflect for a moment on what you are teaching your child when you set or let go of a limit. If you find yourself letting go, or entering into power struggles because of limits all the time, you might be sending conflicting messages.
5. Are my values in sync with my decision to hold / let go of this limit?
Setting a limit is a practice best based on your own family dynamic, values, safety and needs. Your non-negotiables might be the same or different from other families. This is perfectly alright. In my family, allowing rainboots on a sunny day is a “no biggie” while for others is not acceptable. When you set limits, remember that you are protecting your child, reinforcing your family values, balancing needs and also actively building trust with your child.
So, do you struggle to set limits with kindness or find it difficult to set limits without being punitive?
Peace & Be Well,
Setting Limits with Young Children by Hand in Hand Parenting
12 Alternatives to Time Out: Connected Discipline Tools for Raising Cooperative Children Book by Positive Parenting Connection Founder, Ariadne Brill
How to Peacefully Teach and Set Clear Limits, Boundaries and Consequences with Your Child by Andy of Tru Parenting
Setting Limits with Love by Genevieve Simperingham Peaceful Parenting Institute
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