Staying Positive with Your Kids While Setting Limits
“Don’t run! Don’t run!” you yell fervently as your child barrels past you to get to the pool. What parent hasn’t lived through this frustrating situation? It can be so difficult to keep your cool when your kids don’t listen. But, there are ways to communicate clearly with your children without getting negative, nagging and fighting.
Set limits in a positive way by using positive language. Instead of saying “don’t run!”, say “walk please.” Kids, especially the youngest, have a tendency of ignoring the “no” and hearing the opposite of what you want them to do. When you say “don’t run”, they hear “run!” So, use positive language like “use your inside voice”, “stay at the table please” and “hold my hand again please.”
Notice how all of these commands are clear and easy to understand. The clearer your limits are, the easier it will be for your child to follow them. So, keep it simple and also use as few words as possible.
If you’re going somewhere where there will be specific limits on your child that may be challenging, talk about it ahead of time. For example, before you get out of the car at the pool, remind your child that the rule is to walk around the pool. Or, when you’re headed to the grocery store, remind your child what you’ll be purchasing (only food on Mommy or Daddy’s list!). This can help set expectations and avoid meltdowns.
Hold Your Ground – But Be Compassionate
To stay positive when setting limits, you have to hold your ground. Rather than giving in to a whiny, begging child with the hopes of getting a happy, cooperative kid again, be strong. You can stay positive without giving in. Avoid getting in an argument. Instead, say things like “I’ve already answered.” Or “I’ve made my decision.”
It’s also helpful to acknowledge your child’s feelings. You can say “I can see you’re upset” or “I’m sorry you’re having a hard time with this. I’m right here with you.”
The more quality time you spend with your time connecting, the easier the harder moments will become. If your child knows that you are willing to dedicate time to them and connect in positive ways, your relationship won’t suffer when it comes time to setting limits.
Get on Their Level
Crouch down and use a softer voice when setting limits. This will grab your child’s attention, probably even more than yelling. It also helps to keep things from escalating. If you yell, your child will only get louder and louder.
We’re all struggling to be the best parents we can be. If you slip up, forgive yourself and move on. You’ll only stress yourself out more if you succumb to guilt and self-deprecation. It’s hard to forgive, but the more you can let it go (just like Elsa!), the more likely you’ll be in a good mood and be able to enjoy your kids.