“It is not that you are a bad parent. You are experiencing a bad moment.”
What are setting limits, and do I need them?
This is a roadmap for you to feel confident with your boundaries so that you can experience more peace and joy with your children!
This is a hot topic for most parents because kids test our limits. It can be confounding… how could my little angel hit me, spit at me, throw things, or tell me I am a bad mommy? However, pushing limits is their job! Kids push boundaries because they’re in the process of separating and attempting to assert their authority. “I do it!” or “No! Mine!” become their favorite phrases.
Not having clear limits can really hold you back from feeling good about being a parent and enjoying your child.
Your first step to creating healthy limits is to acknowledge that you need them. As parents, we may tend to operate in ‘survival mode’ and make little time to self-reflect and tune in to what we need. We may have ‘checked out’ to protect ourselves from all the chaos and may be simply going through the motions of parenting. Just getting through the day can be an ordeal.
Let this be your defining moment…a point in your life when you’re urged to make a pivotal decision that fundamentally changes you. These moments have a transformative effect on how we interact with our families.
Decide right now that you will do what it takes to hone your skills at defining and implementing clear limits.
How do you know when you need to set limits? You know if you frequently feel:
- taken advantage of
- overly stressed
- not solid and secure in your boundaries
- taken for granted
- not supported
- a victim
Do any of these feel familiar? If yes, now is the time to make a change in the way you parent.
What is a boundary, and what is it not?
- It is not about making someone else do or not do something.
- It is about you taking care of your needs and wants.
- It is not about making someone feel bad or using punishment, anger, blame, or rewards to get them to do what you want.
- It is about being clear and concise in your communication and following through with what you have told them you will do.
To embody setting healthy and effective limits, you will need to practice
When your toddler throws a fit, bites, hits, kicks, or yells, “I don’t like you,” it is hard not to take it personally. You may be tempted to want to MAKE it stop as soon as possible! It is difficult not to have a “knee-jerk” reaction. Your brain is wired to react quickly when under duress. It is not that you are a bad parent. You are experiencing a bad moment.
Reacting with the following reaction statements will only leave you and your child feeling upset:
😡 “You are making me mad” is a type of blame statement.
😤 “You are acting like a spoiled brat” is a shaming statement.
😠 “Go to your room if you can’t behave” is a type of punishment.
“I’m going to leave you” is using fear or threats to achieve what you want.
In order not to be reactive, it is helpful to reframe why your child is acting the way they are. Understanding their behavior helps you not to take things personally and view your child differently. Instead of viewing them as brats or disrespectful, you can be more curious, compassionate, and not feel so overwhelmed by their big emotions.
Why do kids test limits?
It can be an attempt to tell you that they can’t function. They may be tired, hungry, or frustrated. It is unlikely that your child has the ability to verbalize these things directly yet. Ask yourself what they need at the moment.
They may be testing your leadership. They are looking for where the power lies. Toddlers want to know the answer to “What will you do if I do such-and-such?” Try to be consistent and demonstrate that you are unthreatened and not shocked by their behavior. The most effective leaders lead with confidence, humor, and calm. Don’t worry if you don’t get this right. Your kids will give you ample opportunity to practice!
Children tend to test you more in public. This is because they are trying to determine if your consistency extends beyond the home. They want to know how far they can take it in an external environment. Make sure your response is the same, whether you’re at home or out and about. This can be difficult when you feel you have eyes staring at you and you are embarrassed.
“Research says that you have only seven seconds to get your point across to your toddler before you start losing their attention.”
Or they may have feelings and stress they need to release. During these times, hold your limit while demonstrating an “all-feelings-areallowed” attitude.
The messages of love that matter most are heard through our respectful leadership when we are patient, accepting, empathetic, and take the time to really know our child.
Pushing your limits can be the quickest and easiest way to get your attention. Negative attention is better than none. Make sure you are giving your child enough attention when they aren’t testing. Reassure your child with lots of hugs, kisses, and “I love you” statements. The messages of love that matter most are heard through our respectful leadership when we are patient, accepting, empathetic and when we take the time to see our child as an individual.
Remember, your child is looking for and needs limits (although It may notfeel like it).
They feel secure when there is strong, respectful leadership.
The clearer and more concise you are about your limits, your child will test you less.
What areas of behavior do you want to set limits around?
- screen time
- disrespectful behavior
- picking up toys
- treatment of others – siblings, grandparents, friends, and pets
- length of time sitting at the family table
- foods they eat
- your “me” time
- your partner time
We are not telling you what the right boundaries are because everyone’s tolerance level is different.
Feeling guilty about our parenting practice is normal. We feel devastated when we make our child feel small and powerless. We tend to use fear-based practices when we feel pressured to react immediately. Our brains are wired to respond quickly. So, we have to make a conscious effort to learn how to respond instead of reacting.
Learn to pause BEFORE you parent. Do something to center yourself so your response comes from a place of calm and patience.
Here are a few calming techniques. Some of them can be done with your child.
- take three deep breaths
- wash your face
- count backward from 10
- drink some water
- blow bubbles or blow on a pinwheel
- say a mantra
- leave the room if you are afraid you will really blow up
After you calm down, ask yourself, “What outcome do I want here?” This question will help you to set your intention for creating an outcome that works best for you and your child. The more you practice pausing before you parent, the more control you will have of your anger, and this process will become easier and easier.
Most of all, be gentle with yourself. Learning to identify your limits, set them, and then follow through is a process that takes place over time. This is not a fast fix. But as you do, you will gain clarity, self-assurance, and enjoy your kids more!
Setting Limits Assignments
To embody setting healthy and effective limits, you will need to practice…not just read or hear about the concept. These assignments are short and easy to practice supporting you in your process:
Your first assignment is to reflect on how you are feeling. Take some deep breaths and ask yourself, “What am I feeling right now?” Acknowledge whether or not you need to help in this area in your life.
Your second assignment is to reflect at the end of your day on one situation where your child was pushing your limits. Ask yourself, “What really might have been going on with him? What would I do differently if this happens again tomorrow?”
Your third assignment is to determine what your boundaries should be around these issues. Write a clear, concise statement regarding the ones important to you at the moment. Research says that you have only seven seconds to get your point across to your toddler before you start losing their attention. Get in the habit of making short statements rather than lengthy explanations.
For example, “When you are done with a toy, put it away before you take another one out.” Or, “Trucks belong in the truck box when you are done playing with them.”
Your fourth assignment is to practice pausing BEFORE you parent. If you need to, put the word “pause” on several sheets of paper and put them in areas you can see easily as a reminder. This can be a great model for your child too. •
Kathryn Kvols, a mom of 5,struggled with her parenting skills. Being brought up with strict, shame based-discipline, Kathryn knew she wanted something different for her children and her own peace of mind.
During her 30 years of study on best parenting practices, she wrote the book and parenting course “Redirecting.” This course is being taught in 21countries and has been translated into 5 languages. Her researched-based strategies have empowered thousands of parents to redirect their kid’s misbehaviors into positive outcomes without nagging, yelling, or taking away privileges. The 4th edition of “Redirecting Children’s Behavior” can be ordered on Amazon.
A sought-after international speaker, trainer, and parenting coach, her most important role has been her children. Her experiences as a mom, a single mom, and a stepmom make her a compassionate and effective facilitator. Her participants always walk away with practical tools they can implement immediately that create connection rather than conflict.
For more information visit her website at www.apecparenting.com.