TKG LISTEN: What if you set a limit and your child ignores it?

Setting limits without rewards and punishment is hard to do but, we believe that in the long run the choice to support win-win solutions is nurturing confident and capable self-advocates and community members.

from Aha! Parenting by Dr. Laura Markham

Yesterday, we talked about why empathic limits are the secret to Raising a Self-Disciplined Child. But sometimes it’s not so easy to set an empathic limit. What if you state an expectation and your child ignores it? It’s hard to stay empathic then. This is where most of us start yelling, or casting about for some threat to get our child to do what we want. Luckily, there’s a better way.

1. Be sure your limit is reasonable. Sometimes when we listen to our child, we learn something important that helps us re-evaluate our limit. Maybe your child is ready to walk across the street without holding your hand? Or maybe she’s ready to hold onto your bag instead of holding your hand, so she feels a bit more autonomous?

2. If your limit is essential to you, insist on it. If you let your child put off homework today, naturally he’ll want to do the same tomorrow. Permissiveness, meaning backing off your limit, doesn’t serve your child. It’s their job to test the limits; how else will they know where they really are? If you say Maybe, naturally they’ll keep pushing. If you’re clear about your limit, your child has the freedom to rail against the limit, to cry and grieve about it, and finally to accept it and move on to a better solution for everyone.

3. Connect. Don’t try to give instructions or requests from across the room. You need to move in close and connect with your child. Touch her arm, make a comment on what she’s doing, then set your limit. “That looks like fun! But I’m afraid something could break when you throw that in the house.”

(originally shared in 2012!)

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