It has been a long day.
Between managing a household, caring for children, working, and running errands you feel drained of your energy.
The last stop of the day is the grocery store where your child starts begging for some sugary cereal. You say no and explain that it isn’t good for them.
But still, you are met with a temper-tantrum right there in aisle five.
Desperate and a bit embarrassed, you begin to bargain, offering a different treat or extra television time at home. Or, maybe you go straight to threatening a loss of certain privileges.
Though at times bribes and threats may seem like your only option, they are actually working against your authoritative role as a parent. Setting limits for your children comes from a confidence in your rule.
You might think that you are being firm and confident when you say, “You need to brush your teeth now or there will be no bedtime story tonight,” or, “If you brush your teeth, I’ll let you pick out two books for bedtime instead of just one.” In reality, you may be coming off quite the opposite to your children.
Children thrive on certainty and will push the limits when your resolve isn’t fully present.
Instead of threatening or bribing, you should let your children know exactly what you expect from them without conditions. This consistency may help reduce the potential to push back.
5 Keys to Setting Clear Limits
Setting limits for our children is important to both ensure their growth as individuals while also building a parent-child relationship that is steeped in trust and respect. Here are some ways to set the stage for reestablishing your authority.
1. Be prepared ahead of time
You know your child better than anyone, which means you will likely know what they will push back on. If, for example, your child refuses to eat their greens at dinner, start planning your action before you put the broccoli on their plate. Knowing your limits ahead of time means less back-and-forth in the moment.
2. Check your language
The language you use to convey your expectations is very important. You want to use phrases that support your authority and ditch the less committed language such as, “I’d really like for you not to eat that.” The expression “really” or ending a phrase with “ok?” are too soft and lack confidence.
3. Utilize body language
So, there is what you say, and then, there is what you do. Body language and facial expressions can either support what you are saying or tell a very different story. For example, if you say, “it’s time for bed, go get your pajamas on,” but your face reads ‘stressed out,’ the child can become confused.
4. Get neutral
While your child can become upset, you must stay the course. A consistent and non-reactionary tone can provide a feeling of security for the child. Therefore, try not to use a high-pitched, sing-song voice when giving an instruction or amp up your voice when your child does. Stay firm but caring, and your children may also learn to regulate their emotions to match yours.
5. Accept your child’s emotions
Just because a child complies doesn’t mean they will do it with a smile. Know and accept the fact that kids have emotional responses and will continue to show their disdain for some things even after they begin complying without the bribes or threats. This is normal in children and may eventually subside. When you child expresses their emotion, they show the they feel secure with you. Despite the emotion, they still need to obey.
Obviously, you want the best for your children and that’s why you set limits in order to protect them from harm and grow them into responsible adults. And obviously, your child will still disobey and resist limits and expectations. These are just starting points. We offer parent coaching to offer more specific help to your situation. Contact us today.