Parents are often reluctant to set limits for children because they’d rather not face the push-back and negative reactions (can’t imagine why). We don’t feel good when our kids are unhappy, and it feels even worse when we’re responsible for it. We might feel guilty, worrying that our children’s disappointment or anger will linger, or fearing they will feel unloved or stop loving us because we didn’t let them do what they wanted.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
Providing boundaries with honesty and respect is the surest way to foster emotional security, which will endow our children with a lifetime of happiness and freedom.
Stephanie shared an experience that brilliantly illustrates this truth and exemplifies three essential ingredients for successful, respectful discipline:
1. Respectful communication
We intervene with even our youngest infants directly and honestly rather than resorting to distraction, tricks, coaxing or other types of disconnected, dishonest responses and manipulation.
2. Setting limits early
We register our annoyance before it turns to frustration or anger and realize that this is a sign that we need to set a limit. Since we know it’s patently unfair to allow our negative feelings to infringe upon our relationship with our child, we perceive these limits as positive and loving.
3. Following through
We recognize that our verbal directions and requests are often not enough, even when our children fully understand them. So we assure children that we will “help” them by confidently following through with gentle but insistent actions.
“I wanted to write and tell you about an interaction with my 2 year old daughter last night. I had come home from work and while I was talking with my husband she began to dump the clean clothes from the laundry basket onto the floor. At first I was not going to set a boundary because it was not really a safety issue, but then I felt myself getting annoyed so I decided that it would be better to go ahead and stop her from dragging clean clothes over the dirt on the floor.
I crouched down to her level and said, “I won’t let you drag the clothes across the floor. I don’t want to have to wash them again.” I gently removed the clothes from her hands and she tried one more time to grab them from me and I softly deflected her hands away and said, “I won’t let you take them from me. I am putting them away.” She cried for about 10 seconds and quickly went on to play with her kitchen set.
As much as I believe in respectful parenting it for some reason still amazes me when I have an interaction like that. The communication just seems so effortless and authentic and I love the peace it brings to my home.
A short while later, and this is the best part, Genevieve came in close to me and gave me a hug. Then she said the most heartwarming thing to me….”I am so happy. I am so happy, Mama.” And she meant it!
Boundaries help our children to feel safe and happy. Thank you for all your help in guiding parents to set them with love.”
I offer a complete guide to understanding and addressing common behavior issues in my book:
Thanks to Stephanie and Genevieve for allowing me to share your inspiring experience!
(Photo by Phillippe Put on Flickr)