Setting Limits With Respect – What It Sounds Like (Podcast)

In the four years since I started my web site, I’ve written over three hundred articles. I have always tried to be as specific and descriptive as possible, because I am acutely aware how challenging it is to communicate Magda Gerber’s respectful care practices through the written word. To my amazement, many of you are understanding and successfully implementing these practices without ever seeing (or hearing) them demonstrated. My hat’s off to you!

But for others who prefer show and tell, I thought I’d offer a series of brief audio demonstrations via podcast. This first one is on a popular topic (at least here on this blog): setting limits.

I’ll be covering:

  • Confidently setting limits
  • Acknowledging feelings
  • Honest consequences

I offer these examples of respectful limit setting and encourage you to find your own voice and words.

I’d love to hear your suggestions for future podcast topics, so please share!

Transcript of “Setting Limits with Respect – What it Sounds Like”

Hi. I’m Janet Lansbury, and I’m happy to be sharing some examples of respectful limit setting.

Now, my overall recommendations are to approach these situations directly and confidently, which may mean acting “as if”at first, but with practice, true confidence will soon follow, and this will begin to feel natural. I also recommend being open and willing to fully accept our child’s different point of view.

Generally, when parents have difficulties establishing boundaries with children, it’s because we’re not comfortable with our children’s emotional responses. We’d like to avoid them, of course, but that attitude will get us into trouble.

Now, are we ever going to feel entirely comfortable when our children are expressing displeasure? Not likely. Not likely, but we need to recognize this dynamic between us as not only normal and healthy, but also necessary for raising secure, resilient, self-confident, happy children.

And our confidence regarding setting limits doesn’t mean adopting a stern expression or making a face or an attitude. What I’m talking about is simply putting a period at the end of our sentences, feeling unthreatened, and in control. Matter of fact conviction.

If you take a close look at your tiny child, why wouldn’t you feel unthreatened and able to handle any situation that comes up with him or her with ease, right?

We also need to approach these situations with confidence in our children’s abilities to handle disappointment, frustration, disagreement, and anger. To flourish as we’d like them to, our children need to know that they have unflappable leaders who will keep them safe and accept their feelings, and in order to develop an honest and respectful parent-child relationship, we need to be able to express our personal boundaries with our kids. We’re part of this relationship. That’s very important to remember.

Let’s jump into some examples:

Let’s say our infant or toddler tries hitting or biting us. When we’ve stopped her in time by blocking her hit or catching her hands, holding her hands, we might say, “I won’t let you hit me. That hurts. I see you want to hit.” Then, if she continues, “You still feel like hitting. I can’t let you hurt me, so I’m going to hold your hands,” or if I’m holding her in my arms when she hits and continues hitting, “I’m going to put you down. I can’t let you hit me.”

If our child hits before we can stop her, we still under-react, and then we’re ready to prevent the next one if it comes. “I don’t want you to hit. Please be gentle.” Now, only use “please” if you can say it without actually pleading because pleading with children makes them feel like we’re the weak ones instead of the strong ones that they need.

If you sense this is a reaction to this … that their behavior is a reaction to a specific event, you might acknowledge, “You seem upset that I said no to having another cookie. You enjoyed that cookie. You really wanted another. I see how disappointed you are. I’m going to hold your hands and keep you safe until you can stop hitting. I know. I see you’re disappointed. I see you’re upset.”

When possible, you might offer an acceptable alternative like, “You can hit this pillow, but not me.” Now, remember, when learning our limits, children need show and tell. Talking isn’t enough, which doesn’t mean they don’t understand our words. It means they need more reassurance. They need follow-through. So don’t fall into the trap of believing you can say something like, “Don’t hit me,” and have your child obey you, and then you’re going to get angry when your child is saying basically, “No, I need more. I need more from you. What are you going to do if I keep doing it?”

Now, why use, “I won’t let you,” rather than, “We don’t hit,” or, “Hands aren’t for hitting,” or, “Don’t hit mommy,” et cetera? Children learn best when we engage with them directly. They learn through our relationship, so we’re not talking about some general rules with this mommy person over here somewhere. We’re talking you and me. This is important. This is intimate. This is in the moment. This is about us.

Here’s another example, something less obvious than hitting. Let’s say you allowed your child to play with something of yours, but now, she’s making a mess or doing something that you don’t want her to do. Now, first of all, it’s better to avoid these situations completely by creating a safe “yes” play space for our child where we don’t have to interrupt her natural inclination to explore. Making messes of things is what children, especially toddlers, are supposed to do. That’s the way they learn. They experiment. They explore.

Putting them in a situation where exploring something fully is going to get them into trouble with us is unfair. But it happens. So let’s say that happens. We might say something then like, “Okay. I’m going to stop you from removing more pan from the shelf. I know I was letting you play with those, but I don’t want them all out on the floor like that. Can you help me put those back? Hmm, it seems you want to still play with them. I understand. I made a mistake allowing you to use this when I really didn’t want you to. I’m sorry for the confusion. Okay. I’m going to have to take these, and put these pan back, and close the cabinet.”

Now, let’s touch briefly on consequences. Consequences aren’t helpful to children or to our relationship when they are just another word for punishments. For example, “You didn’t clean your toys up, so you’re not going to get dessert tonight.” To a child, that feels like we’re against them. It feels unfair. However, when consequences are an expression of our personal limits, our personal boundaries with our child, then they are helpful because they are informing our child about us, and our relationship, and what we’re willing to do.

Now, let’s find an example like your child is splashing in the bath. Splashing, splashing, splashing. Having fun, but now, the water is going on the floor, and you’re getting uncomfortable, so you’re sensing … It’s always good when setting limits to sense your discomfort, and then to not be afraid to share your feelings with your child. “I’m not comfortable with you splashing the water. You want to splash. I don’t want you to splash in the bath. I see you’re still splashing. Okay. If you can’t stop splashing, I’m going to need to help you get out of the tub.” Child is still splashing. “Okay. I’m going to help you get out of the tub. Here we go.”

Right there, we gave a consequence. The child had to get out of the tub because they were splashing. Similarly, if your child is having difficulties getting ready for bed, they don’t want to get their pajamas on, they’re running all around the house, running all around the house, so you might let this go on a bit, and then at some point, you might say, “It’s getting late, and if you can come in and get your PJs on right now, we’ll have time for a couple of books, and if you don’t, we may only have time for one or even maybe just a song tonight,” and then it’s okay to follow-through with those consequences because you don’t want to stay up all night. You’re tired. You have limits, so it’s okay to be ourselves with our children. I think that’s really important to know.

And what will happen is these interactions will feel natural. We don’t need to use countdowns. “Okay. When I count to three, do this.” We don’t need to use timers. We don’t need these things between us and our child. This is our relationship. It’s something that’s going to last us throughout their adult years. It doesn’t have to change. Our dynamic together doesn’t have to change. We’re always going to be saying, “This works for me, and this is what I can do. This is what I want you to do.” We’re always going to have those boundaries in our relationship, so this is a natural honest approach, and you can do this.

For a complete guide to respectful discipline, please check out my new book: 

No Bad Kids: Toddler Discipline Without Shame

now available on Audio HERE

(Photo by Greg Westfall on Flickr)

108 Comments

Please share your comments and questions. I read them all and respond to as many as time will allow.

  1. Such a great podcast. You completely nailed it–it’s all right here, and I want every parent to listen to this!!!

  2. yeah!! stoked on this — such a great idea to do a podcast!!

    1. Thanks, Sara! And thank goodness for teenage daughter engineer/editors! <3

  3. Hi Janet!! So glad you did this podcast. Very helpful to hear the limit-setting as opposed to just reading know it’s done. What do you think about saying to a child “if you are throwing food you are telling me you are finished with dinner.” Child does it again. “You threw food on the floor. You are telling me you are finished. I’m taking your plate to the sink.” We often use this language with our 3 year old . I understand that RIE is for 0-2, but just wanted your feedback about the language we are using. We have a 1 year old and use the same style of language.

    1. Sounds absolutely perfect to me, Amanda. I actually almost used that example. And thanks for your support for the podcast!

  4. Hi Janet,

    I have recently discovered you and really enjoy your articles. This podcast was great! Especially because my newly 2 yr old son has started hitting a lot lately. I tried everything (including things that made me uncomfortable) and your approach feels the most natural and seems to work the best with him. But some days he just continues to hit. Especially when frustrated or upset. If I am holding him and he hits me I often can not put him down because he will run off, for example on our way in the house from the car (no garage). Often when I am holding his hands and saying “I won’t let you hit me” he then tries to hit me with his head. He also sometimes hits in play. He got brought to me out of our church childcare last week for being mean (hitting, pushing, taking toys). He still has very limited communication. He also has a new brother just 4 months old. And a father who is military and gone a lot. I just am unsure how long I can keep up a calm demeanor if he continues to hit for weeks and months to come. Any advice?

    Thanks so much!
    Jennifer

  5. I will be looking forward to “hearing” from you more! I love the idea of sharing RIE through podcasts. My husband loves listening to podcasts while working, working out, mowing the bass, etc. so I will be sharing with him. Thank you!

      1. Love it, Abby! Please let me know if are specifics you and your husband would like me to share more about…

  6. avatar Mary Jane says:

    That was so helpful to hear your tone of voice. Thanks so much! I hope you’ll do more podcasts or videos, it is so helpful for me to see and hear.

    1. Thank you, Mary Jane, that is very encouraging! I will do more.

  7. Janet …… Brilliant brilliant brilliant!!! Makes a world of difference to hear what this is all supposed to sound like!!! OMG thank you for doing this and I so look forward to listening to all of them.

    1. Thanks, Joanne! I’d love suggestions for specific topics you’d like me to cover.

  8. Just wonderful! Funny how we have experienced almost all of the scenarios you mention as examples. I feel confident in the way I have used the language you describe with setting limits but have one challenge. When setting limits, my boys (ages almost 2 and almost 3)will understandably become upset and cry. I hold them or sit by them (whichever they seem to need) and tell them I understand they are disappointed/frustrated, etc but repeat the limit. Sometimes, they are crying so much that I’m not sure they are even hearing me. In that case, I just continue to hold them or sit by and just don’t say anything until the storm has passed. Then, we can usually move on. Does this sound reasonable?

    1. Sounds very reasonable, Dawn. In those tough moments, just keep your focus on ACCEPTANCE. You don’t have to say anything during the storm and sometimes, with some children, it’s actually better not to. Just BE accepting and nod your head or whatever. Also, you probably don’t need to repeat the limit if your child is already reacting to it… I would focus more on accepting their point of view, rather than re-stating yours.

  9. This is just perfect because it also give an ex. Of intonation.
    1 question though if you don’t mind.
    When I want things done, like she is throwing stuff on the floor and I want her to pick up and she doesn’t want to. What kind of consequences can there be? We have been using sentences that are not very respectful like “we dont throw stuff on the floor like this please pick up and then you’ll get…” or won’t get. ..
    Thank you very much.

    1. Hi yes I have this issue as well – my 2-year old daughter throws things when she is not getting attention and I haven’t found an appropriate consequence related to the behaviour. Taking away the object she has thrown does not make any difference! Any suggestions?

    2. Claire, when you say “stuff”, are these her things or yours? I wouldn’t use a “you’ll get” or “you won’t get” type of consequence. In the podcast I talk about only stating consequences that are an honest reflection of our own boundaries, like “I can’t let you take more toys out until we put a few of these away…” And then, I’d offer, “Do you need some help?”

      If these kinds of behaviors upset you, your daughter may be more inclined to repeat them.

  10. Aha, I think I get it more now. The word relationship was key for me. My toddler (16 months) has just started testing every boundary we set and I have not been getting far with just ignoring or saying no in a calm voice. I have been reading your blog since he was tiny but I have still found myself formulating a one-sided game plan to “deal” with his behaviour a lot of the time, rather than communicating my intentions more directly and allowing him to join in with me. I had felt unnatural saying things like “let me help you with that” because I think really my message is “I’m going to help you with that whether you are ready or not”. Or “when you’re ready, let’s put on your pyjama top” while I race around the house after him – I ended up a passive lemon with delayed follow-through! I have recently stopped letting him climb on top of me because I see it as a metaphor for him walking all over me in other ways and it helps me set my own personal boundaries clearly. Thank you for all your insightful posts!

    1. Helen, I love these conclusions you are coming to. YES!: “…communicating my intentions more directly and allowing him to join in with me.”

      The “passive lemon” cracked me up! 🙂

  11. Thank you so much for this. I’d love to hear more podcasts! I think instinctively I have been trying to parent my 19 month old respectfully without even realising it so since I discovered your site I have been devouring every word and loving having this support.

    1. Great, Angela! Please let me know if there are specifics you’d like me to cover.

  12. LOVE hearing your voice Janet! Tone and pace of what we’re saying is so hard to convey on paper. I even ‘hear’ a twinkle in your eye! xo

  13. As a long commuter I must say that I LOVE podcasts, and this one was wonderful!!! If you were to do these regularly I would absolutely be one of your first subscribers, thanks for doing this! 🙂

    1. Thanks for your encouragement, Lynn! Again, I’d love ideas for particular topics you find most challenging.

  14. Thank you for posting this! We implement RIE practices in our child care center and I plan to share this with my teachers. Such wonderful, concrete examples. And the best part is that they are hearing it from someone other than me, so they learn that these ideas are practiced someplace other than my own head!

    1. Sounds good, Cindy! It feels great to me to be presenting what’s in my “writing head” in a far more accurate manner.

  15. Janet, I love the podcast and your blog! Thank you for such great parenting advice! Any advice for what to do with a 21-month old who throws his food/plate/cup on the floor when he’s done with his meal? Using the “I see you are throwing your plate on the floor, so you must be done” doesn’t seem to work very well when he’s pretty much already done with his food (i.e. he doesn’t really care about the consequence of not getting to finish his food).

    1. Thanks, Erika! Pay attention to your boy during mealtimes and when you sense him winding down, say, “Please let me know when you done so I can help you out of your seat right away… Are you done?” Is he in a highchair? Throwing food type of behavior doesn’t seem to happen when children have a child-sized table and chair, because they don’t feel hemmed in. Here’s a post (and video) about that, if you’re interested: http://dev.janetlansbury.com/2010/01/baby-table-manners/

  16. Hy Janet! Thank you so much for your articles and now this podcast!
    It’s awesome! Please continue doing it. I’m from Brazil and the podcast brought more light to your approach.

  17. Hi Janet, thanks for sharing your experiences. I really connect with all your advice about parenting but I’m wondering what will happen if I use this type of parenting and my partner does not? I don’t want things to be inconsistent and confusing for our children.

    1. Heather, I believe that one parent doing this is better than none. Yes, it would be better if your husband was on board. Maybe if you keep modeling respectful interactions with him, he will begin to emulate you… You might put your foot down about certain things (like punishments) that create an “us/them” and distrust and will undermine the respectful approach you are taking.

  18. So what about the situation where you start to help them out of the bath, and they say they’ll stop splashing, or you take away their food because they’re throwing it but they tell you they are still hungry?

    1. Star, be very clear from the get-go. Before your child goes into the bath, let her know that you want the water to stay in the tub and only gentle splashes. Similarly, let your child know that eating time is about eating, not throwing or playing with food, and if she does those things, you will assume that she’s done.

      It’s always your choice to give your child another “chance”, of course, but don’t underestimate your child’s awareness and ability to understand your words! When you have been clear and communicative, you can be sure that these are tests, not “needs” for more food or more bath time.

  19. Dear Janet! I always imagined your voice when reading your posts and it didn’t match to your actual voice so it took me a few seconds to adjust and open up, lol! After the initial surprise, I loved this podcast!!!! Thank you so much for your generosity, I am one of those people who found you three years ago and inspired by your work and what you share about Magda dared to open a free play center for infants. I have not enough words of gratitude to thank you for this gift. Much love, Fernanda

    1. Hi Fernanda! Haha! I would love to hear the voice you thought I had. 🙂 Wow, your words are so lovely. Thank you! Please continue the wonderful work you are doing.
      Love,
      Janet

  20. Thank you so much for this! We at our household always enjoy reading your wise words and putting them into practice, but it was a real treat to hear you discuss stuff. Looking forward to the next ones.

  21. Hi Janet – This sounds like it was a wonderful podcast, but somehow I can’t get it to come up on my computer. There is just a big blank that says SoundCloud on it. Maybe I am missing something, but I can’t get it to play. Is there anywhere else that I can access this? I really want (NEED) to listen to this!
    Thanks

    1. Shoot. Technically challenged myself, I am not the one to be able to figure this out for you… Hmmm… I can ask my webmaster!

  22. Thank you, thank you for sharing this! We are really working on getting into the habit of responding well to our 16.5 month old so by the time he is older it’s second nature. Throwing (everything) is our big difficulty right now, so it really helps to have these tools.

    1. You’re welcome, Crystal! Make sure he has an area and safe stuff (like balls or soft things) for throwing. If he throws something not so cool, UNDER-REACT, and then if he continues, you may need to say, “I see you letting me know you can’t use that safely, so I’m going to put it away for now.”

  23. avatar Alexandra says:

    wonderfull idea – with the podcast, i can relax my eyes by looking out the window, and enjoying the beautifull view, while focusing on such important and great quality information. thank you soooo much! i adore your work! greetings from Austria!!

    1. A BIG hello to you in Austria, Alexandra! Thanks for your kindness!

  24. avatar Valerie Schroeder says:

    Hi Janet. Thank you for this great post re setting clear limits. Really good to hear your voice making the statements as an example of how parents can talk to the children. Giving the words and the tone is so important. This probably comes across easier to follow that reading the words for some parents. I will certainly be passing this link on to families who come to my Babyfocus parent and child classes. It’s also useful for parents of children of older ages too. It was lovely for me to hear your voice too after meeting you a few weeks ago at your classes at the RIE CEntre. I could picture you as you spoke!! Valerie

    1. Hi Valerie! Your visit was so lovely! I’m looking forward to making it out to New Zealand one day. Thanks for all you do!

  25. Thanks SO MUCH for this podcast. I shared this with DH, as he usually “don’t have time” to read blogs but he does have time to listen for 8 minutes :-).

    My question about consequence v.s. punishment: sometimes it happens when my son started throwing food from the table at lunch because he was 1. too hungry AND 2. too tired to sit down and eat. Both entirely MY fault — I shouldn’t have let him to be too tired/too hungry at the first place, but it happened. Usually the consequence I gave him is once he is throwing food on his own volition (i.e. not experimenting/lack of motor skills), meal time is over. But I know at this situation it wasn’t his fault that he’s both too tired & hungry to eat, and he just physically couldn’t do it. In this situation, will my consequence is then turn into a punishment, simply because he was denied the very thing he needed the most at that time, and also because it was not his fault that he got to the point that he were not able to handle himself?

    Just to be completely clear, I am NEVER denying him food simply because he is throwing things/for the sake of enforcing the boundary, nor he is in any kind of danger from lacking food, etc. Most of the time, he would have had some snacks and considering many toddlers can eat very little anyway. In fact, in such situation above, I’d remove him from his high chair, and would offer him snack before putting him down to nap — which I later regret.

    Any thoughts/input would be appreciated. What would you do in this situation (apart from AVOIDING such situation at the first place, which we usually do).

    1. Thanks, Claire! A couple of thoughts… When he is overly hungry or tired, I would stay close and very focused on him, and hand him only small bites of food, rather than placing a plate of food in front of him. You might ask if he would like you to feed him. He needs more nurturing and extra patience in these situations. Can you see the difference between throwing as a test and throwing because he is overwhelmed?

      1. “Can you see the difference between throwing as a test and throwing because he is overwhelmed?”

        Can I see the difference in my son if he throws as testing v.s. if he throws because he is overwhelmed? Yes, I think sometimes… When he threw when he was testing, he would look at me when he threw the food as if asking, “I’ll see what’s your reaction when I do this.” He’d even laugh when doing so. That’s when the food on the table stop. At a later time, I always try to “touch base” to see if he has more underlying feeling that prompts him to do so– almost always there is but a bit tricky to coax. Usually I found when he did so, he wanted more autonomy or the day has gone such that he was not allowed more autonomy as he should have (i.e. I needed him to change quickly, get in the car, get out, do this/that, etc.)

        When he was overwhelmed/overtired, he’d have this frustration written on his face, or just a complete “I don’t care, I’m so tired, why put me in this chair” face. Sometimes he flipped the whole plate and just asked to get down.

        I appreciate the input of asking him to help him feed himself, I think it is comforting to know that I can still help my son by feeding him without him loosing autonomy. Thank you for your input sincerely.

  26. This is great, glad you are doing these & can’t wait for the next one!

  27. Hello Janet,

    I would like to thank you for all your wonderfully helpful articles.

    My macbook is an older one and I wondered if there was some way that I could view your videos?

    Happy Sunday!
    Em

  28. I had read and tried to use these advises about setting limits beforehand in your website but It was much nicer hearing them in your voice.
    thanks a lot

  29. I loved this so much Janet! Great examples and being able to hear the tone is so helpful.

  30. Thank you so much for this podcast! I try very hard to use these phrases and words with my 3 year old son, but the difference is all in the tone. I find when limits are tested regularly, impatience will creep into my voice. It is nice to hear your tone and remind myself that I need to maintain that calm for my carefully chosen words to be effective.
    I’m excited for more podcasts in the future. I noticed you requested specific topics to cover. Could I be so bold as to make a request for a topic?
    How do we respectfully say No when it is not about a limit/boundary?
    My biggest parenting trouble right now with my 3 year old, is how to respectfully respond to demanding and requests. I am so often indecisive in my responses to these situations, that he doesn’t accept the answers I give him.
    For instance:
    1. Demands such as “I don’t want Mommy to sing!” (if I start singing/humming a tune, even in a different room from him) Sometimes I don’t mind stopping, sometimes I wish I could keep singing because it’s something I want to do. The same applies to “I don’t want Mommy to go pee!” which, for some reason, I’ve heard almost every day for a year and a half (of course, we all know this activity is beyond my control, but how do I tell him that respectfully?)
    2. Requests to fetch and do things for him, that sometimes I don’t mind doing but that I don’t want to this time: Such as, after we’ve all sat down at the table to eat our meal and he tells me he wants a glass of water instead of milk. Or, if he’s playing and needs something, instead of going to get it himself, he asks/tells me to do it.
    3. Requests to play when I’m too busy, too tired (pregnant), or just not in the mood to do that particular activity. (This is outside of the ‘wants nothing time’ that we have daily.)
    He’s not misbehaving, and it’s fair for him to want these things most of the time, but I can’t always accommodate him and he usually doesn’t want to accept my response.

  31. This was great! I don’t normally listen to podcasts, but I was really interested in hearing how it “sounds” to do the things I read about in your articles. I really learned something, and I would like to hear more about setting limits and natural consequences for toddler behavior especially. Thank you!

  32. Janet, Thank you for the resources you’ve provided during the first 19 mo with my daughter. I’m expecting #2 soon and look forward to trying it out with a newborn again. Your advice would’ve been helpful during my career as a classroom teacher & your words often link back to teaching memories. The podcast was fantastic! Ideas for future: sibling interactions, getting dressed, playground interactions when parents don’t know each other. Thanks, again!

  33. Great idea doing podcasts. Cant wait to hear more of them. I liked what Helen said about not letting her son climb on her as she saw it as a metaphor. Struck a cord as my daughter climbs all over her daddy. Most times she wont let him sit and be or play with his 5 month old son without her still trying to sit or climb on him. I recently bought my son some steel bowls to play with and he LOVES them! they were such a great buy and I never would have thought about them for him before reading your articles. I have a query though, any reason my daughter (2 and a half) would hardly give me any trouble (lets me help her get dressed, put her dressing gown on, brush her teeth, do as I ask her, etc) but almost always resists letting her daddy do it and often throws a little tantrum. She loves him and as I said climbs all over him and plays with him but she just doesn’t seem to do as he asks like she does for me. Any suggestions would greatly help. Love all your articles and approach. xx

  34. Thank you Janet the podcast is a brilliant idea. I find your written guides extremely useful and this is even better.

    Thanks for these examples – everything you have said is very very relevant for me relating with my 3 year old. I’ve been struggling with getting him to stop hitting and there are some subtleties I’ve picked up now from listening to you which I will put into practice.

    My biggest challenge at the moment is what to do when he hits or on occasion bites his 11 month old sister. I struggle to remain calm, sometimes I achieve it and sometimes I don’t. I usually take him to another area (e.g. the lounge room if we are in the kitchen) and say “if you can’t play gently you will have to play by yourself for a while” – I don’t know if this a very RIE thing to do but its the best I’ve come up with so far – any input from others is welcome.

    Thanks for everything you provide Janet, your blog has been a significant guide to my husband and I since we discovered you 2 years ago.

    Best to you,
    Sami xx

  35. I have a question about setting respectful limits with meal times when you have a very picky eater. My 15 mo eats very little solid food. He has a history of severe reflux which I understand from doctors can cause a food aversion. We offer him food three meals a day plus snacks. We’ve tried a low table and would prefer to use a low table but he wants to grab food and leave the table. We bring him back to the table but it just turns into one big ordeal of trying to get him to stay so we abandoned that and went back to high chair. Also as he is often not wanting to eat he will sing that he’s finished and want to leave the table long before we are finished eating. We’ve done well so far getting him to stop throwing his plate or cup by communicating that he can let us know he wants us to take them but sometimes he throws did or bangs his spoon. Acknowledging that he’s done isn’t really helpful since he wasn’t that keen to eat in the first place and we’d like him to stay a part of the meal time also we don’t really want have him running amok while we either have one of us leave the table or stay trying to quickly eat. I so would like meals to be shared but he often just doesn’t have an interest. Is also love to go back to using his table and chairs but don’t know how to stop the running around he seems to need to do at home. They use rie at his daycare and he has no problem at their low table ( though the he rarely eats food as well but he doesn’t try to run away with it). Basically him leaving the meal is what he wants so how can we respectfully encourage him to stay with us and remain reasonably decorous (ie not banging spoons etc.).

  36. Hey Janet,

    What a novel concept. The idea that children just want to be heard and understood is such a simple thing that is often overlooked by parents.

    Even in adult relationships, we all just want to be heard; to know that we exist.

    Also, it’s important to set those boundaries with our children just the same way we do with other people in our lives.

    Great job on the podcast! Great actionable tips. Can’t wait for another.

  37. Wonderful podcast – please, please, please record more! For those of us who retain information better when it’s received audibly, podcasts are so helpful. I don’t think you need to necessarily come up with new topics to podcast, maybe just adapt your most popular posts. I (and, I’m sure, many others) would be so grateful!

  38. I found this very useful indeed – you have already kindly acknowledged my praise on Twitter, and you reacted to my mentioning of using counting with my digger obsessed-numbers man of 2 1/2. This exchange has stayed with me, and I felt the need to write again.
    I am an adoptive mum, and so this is a lens that I view all parenting stuff through. I find you blog and gentle authority very useful and applicable in a context of adoption. But more on that another time perhaps.
    I write again now, because of the blog. I really appreciated hearing your voicing examples of gentle discipline. Something I do struggle with. Your podcast and our exchange made me realise just how much there is in the voice, the delivery of any disciplining. Counting down (up actually) can be done as gently as ‘I love you’, and ‘Let me help you with…’ can be as short tempered and disconnecting as ‘oh, go away now’. I try to delivery all my counting with peace, space and yes – love. For my cheeky monkey. Since our twitter exchange I have observed these interactions more closely, and notice how we both enjoy them. They are empowering him, and helping me changing his gears. Discipline is very much about the delivery. Your podcast does make that very clear. This particular aspect of parenting is well suited for podcasting. So once again thank you.
    🙂

  39. LOVE this podcast format. Concrete examples are so helpful. To be honest, I especially look forward to playing these podcasts when my husband and MIL just so happen to be around. 😉

    I would love some advice on supporting a toddler with very intense anger/rage. My just-turned-3-yr-old son takes a long long time to move on when he is upset. For example, last week, he was in hysterics when his temporary tattoo started coming off in the shower. I removed him from the shower, calmly empathized, acknowledged his feelings, and told him that I am here for him as he faces these big feelings. Most anything I say escalates his anger, and he shouts things like, “No! Mommy, go away! I want Mommy fall, break head! I want nobody! Nothing!” I don’t react to these words, but when he starts trying to hit or run away to break something, I bring him to a sofa. sit behind him and “hug” his arms and legs down. While doing this, I quietly and evenly say, “I need to keep us safe.” This succeeds in preventing hitting, but I can be sitting there with him for over an hour at a time while he violently resists me. With the tattoo incident, he eventually fell asleep while I was pinning him down. But then he awoke in the middle of the night still wildly upset about the tattoo and inconsolable. My husband and I took turns walking with him, listening to his feelings, etc., until the birds were chirping and he fell asleep… Only to repeat the whole process again hours later. What part of the parenting puzzle am I missing? Can I do anything to help him cope with these feelings? I know tantrums are normal at this age, but he gets so stuck in a dark place, and I cry thinking about the teen years ahead. He is already so explosively strong and I am really petite; I don’t know how much longer I can physically restrain him to keep us safe. Any advice or links would be so appreciated!

  40. “Authentic human interactions become impossible when you lose yourself in a role.”

    Eckhart Tolle

    Your method seems to create an “authentic human interation”

  41. avatar Catherine says:

    Thanks for your posts. I’m trying to do this and it’s very difficult because it’s not how I was raised even though it makes sense and seems intuitive to me. I have a 2.5 year old who sometimes likes to resist his car seat an — this is new — getting dressed. He has no interested in choosing from a couple of clothing options and just wants to be naked. It’s fine at home, but what about when I need to leave? I’ve been saying “It’s time for you to get dressed now.” But I have to sometimes say it for 10 mins or more and find myself becoming impatient and having to pull away so I can take a few deep breaths. I guess what stresses me out is that I have no idea how long he could carry on in any one particular session and I am expected at work at specific time. 10 minutes is not a long time and I build extra into my departure routines to help with that, but what if he just kept ignoring me for an entire hour. I don’t want to force him into clothing (or his seat) so I am left to what feels like mind games.

    Today, I finally just started watching a video of him that I know he likes on my cell phone (without saying anything to him) and sure enough, he was next to me in an instant. I just said, “Do you want to watch this while getting dressed?” and he laid down and let me put a diaper and clothes on him. (We’re trying to get him more involved in dressing himself while standing but in this case, I just wanted those clothes on him).

    With the car seat, he just wants to play with the knobs in the driver’s seat which I want to discourage because I don’t think it is safe to play with cars. So, we walk out to the car together (and with the 6 month old baby) and I say, “okay, let’s get into the car.” I let him in first because I don’t want him loose while I’m distracted with the baby and my bags. Then I put my stuff in the front passenger seat and the baby in his seat. And then I go around to my seat, where he is usually sitting, and I say, “Okay, let’s go. Time to get in your seat. Only you get to sit there. Let’s buckle you in.”

    Most days, he’s fine and gets right into his seat and likes to help with the chest clip. Sometimes I give him a little toy to play with, though I try not to make it a bribe,so I generally don’t hold it out there to have in exchange for sitting. It’s more of a pleasant consequence of sitting in his seat. I came to this little strategy after a bad day that involved me yelling. I feel like it works most of the time because I’m not playing with him in the car and when I get in, he has no where to go except his seat. But then one day he discovered the floor. And then another day he discovered the sidewalk and thought it would be fun to make a run for it. I have to chase him because he could be hit by a car, but that’s exactly what makes him think it is a game.

    Most days we get going in the car just fine, but on those off days, I don’t know what to do. And I don’t know if what I’m doing is just totally wrong and sending a lot of mixed signals. I have noticed he starts to shut down with anything that strikes a harder tone, but I also don’t want to feel like I’m having to convince my toddler to do everything. I don’t need robotic compliance, but sometimes I do need to get places (actually every day) in a timely manner.

  42. avatar Catherine says:

    I’m sorry my question above is so long. I sat down to type a short question and it all fell out.

  43. Love the podcast format. Chances for anymore podcasts with examples?

  44. I really enjoyed this podcast. A group of my friends and I would love to hear how to guide our children to be in group situations successfully when conflict arises. Namely from the parents perspective of the toddler who is the Pusher, the Pushed, the Toy Taker and the Eternally Empty Handed child.

    1. That’s a great idea, Morgan! I’m going to work on that one next

  45. avatar clara mandalari says:

    Hi JAnet This was great to hear your voice it was awesome!

    I find I am getting better at the acknowledging feelings and the consequence but my question is once you provide the consequence my daughter ALWAYS bursts into a major crying or panic saying she wont do it agin… How do you follow thru with that? let her cry acknowledging feelings again?

    1. Yes, I would support her to express her feelings. If you have been altering your answer in the face of your daughter’s emotions, she will be even more likely to fall apart when you do hold the limit…because this experience of disappointment has not be “normalized” for her… Does this make sense to you? That is why is so important for parents to get comfortable with this limit-setting dynamic:

      Parents set a limit (or explain their limits, as in an “honest consequence”); child responds with disappointment or anger; parent fully accepts and acknowledges the child’s perspective.

      Oh, and thanks for your kind words about my voice!

  46. Hi Janet, I think you are so clear and articulate – so it is really lovely to listen to you. Thank you.
    I have a 2 year old boy who sometimes hits other kids even when he has not been provoked at all (ie. the other child doesn’t have a toy that he wants, or hasn’t done anything at all). Why would he do this? It doesn’t seem to me that he feels overwhelmed or anxious at the time, but maybe he is?
    If you have time, I’d love a response.
    Thank you!

  47. Thanks for this great podcast! My 15 month old daughter has started hitting. I have been using the responses you provided in the podcast, but usually she just starts laughing and it turns into a game. She also does this with our dog and thinks it’s funny. I usually then put the dog outside. I feel like I am better prepared to handle crying than her laughter, because the consequence of the dog leaving or me putting her down if she hits me doesn’t seem to phase her. Any suggestions! Thank you!

    1. Lindy – can you share a little more about how this turns into a game? What is your response to her laughing?

  48. Janet- When I hold her hands and say “I don’t want you to hit,” she often starts laughing. Same thing when I hold her arms or hold her back from the dog. Or as I move the dog away from her, it’s like she thinks a game of chase starts. If she laughs and still tries to hit, I say “you’re having a hard time not hitting the dog, so he’s going outside.” If it’s me or my husband she’s hitting and starts to laugh while we’re holding her, we usually end up letting go of her hands to see what she’ll do. If she tries again to hit, we put her down. Sometimes she just moves into the next thing though.

    1. That description helps me a lot, Lindy. Okay… It sounds like you are making a bit too much of a point with her. Be more nonchalant…unbothered and bored. Let her laugh if she wants to. If she tries hitting a second time, let her know you will put her down. Again, think BORED. She sounds like a very clever, strong girl and she will know if she’s getting to you. So, don’t let this tiny girl’s antics get to you. 🙂

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