Limit setting and discipline are two topics that are often brought up by parents during our parenting class discussions.
Today in class we had a great opportunity to see how we can be respectful and kind and help children understand what our limits are as well as embrace child’s curiosity and interest. Two children Finny and Jimmy (18 months old), came to me when they saw me with a new object – a clipboard with paper. To them it was a new item that was worth exploring.
What observant children we have, they spotted something new right away. In addition, I think, they also wanted to connect with me, so they came over. First came Finny and for the longest time, she touched the papers, the clipboard, and talked her “rolling tongue” way with me. I stated what I observed and I did not let go, “Yes, that is my paper, and a clipboard.” I paused. Finny was still interested, I made another observation, “Yes there is writing on the paper. You are curious.” When Finny began lightly pulling on my paper, I said: “I’m going to hang on to this. I see you want it, …pause… I’m hanging on.” She was watching me intently and trying to get it from me but was also listening.
Then Jimmy came over and the same thing repeated with him, except he was more interested in my pen. I let him know that it is my pen for writing and I’m going to hang on to it, I paused and watched him and said “it looks like you are interested in my pen.” Jimmy looked from his sister to me and processed the information I was giving him, I’m holding on to the pen, yes it is a pen and I’m using it. Jimmy stopped pulling on the pen and watched me intently. After hearing it a few times, he decided to move on.
In similar situations, when a child wants something that you are not willing to let go of or share, you can send children the message of understanding and value their curiosity while also letting them know what the boundaries are.
Be positive about child’s intention to explore and clear about your limits:
- State what you see. “I see you are interested in my pen.” Show with your tone of voice that you are interested and positive about the child’s intention to explore. While you are making the statement – gives you a minute to evaluate the situation: is it going to be a limit or are you are willing to give the item to the child to explore?
- State: “I will not let you…” or “I don’t want you to …..” or “I am not ok with ….” Or “I’m not done…” Show with your body language and follow through. Remain calm. Be consistent and confident.
It is important to send our children a message of confidence when we set limits. It helps children to feel secure.
- Give simple and short explanation of why you are not willing to give an item to the child. “I need this pen for writing.”
Think what is the need for Jimmy and Finny to reach for the clip board and the pen?
- Is it a ‘need’ for connection? – Should I stop what I am doing and connect with my child now or should I tell him when I will be available.
- Is it a ‘need’ for discovery? – Should I add crayons and paper to my child’s environment?
- Is it a ‘need’ to assert himself? — Should I provide more choices when possible? (Asking a child do you want to draw or read? Do you want red or blue cup? etc.)
Wishing you all the best in the difficult yet exciting journey of parenting!