How many times a day do you have a situation in your family when you feel like you need to set a limit?
In a recent parenting class, one of our 18 month old children discovered the electrical plug we had covered with drapery and was soon trying to uncover the drape to touch the plug…
As I moved closer to him, I announced “Jimmy, I am coming close”, so as not to startle him with my sudden presence and to give him respect.
I was concerned about the potential danger, so I said “I see you found the electrical panel.”
I made eye contact, I touched the panel so he knew what I was referring to and I made another comment: “I see you found something.”
I put my hand between panel and him to also protect Jimmy and told him so, “I’m not okay with you touching the panel — it is not safe”
Jimmy attempted to take my hand off, but I held my ground and told him what I observed: “I see you are trying to push my hand away.”
“I’m hanging on” I said to him. I looked at him and he connected my words with my hands and eyes.
He tried again and I did the same thing again, my tone did not change, I did not say something new, I said the same thing (but not too many times as to overwhelm him).
Then he followed the plug from the stereo above on the shelf to the panel and I said, “You are looking at the stereo it is connected into the panel and it plays music” I paused and then added “we listen to music from the stereo.” Then I added “do you listen to music at home?”
He tried yet another time to touch the panel and my response was a repeat of the same. Even tone again: understanding for his need and same message – “I’m not okay, I’m hanging on.”
He did finally decide to move on and found something else to play with.
The exchange took all of 5 minutes. Calm energy and consistency of my message helped me to avoid a power struggle.
I believe often the power struggles happens when we are tired, busy or have fear that our children will not listen to us.
As you embark on similar situations in your home, try this:
- Stay calm and come close to your child. “I am coming closer.” Come down to the child’s eye level.
- State what you see. (While you are saying it gives you a minute to evaluate situation: is it going to be a limit or are you going to see what happens next?)
- State: “I will not let you…” or “I don’t want you to …..” or “I am not ok with ….”
- Show with your body language and follow through. Remain calm. Be consistent.
Give simple and short explanation why you are stopping your child.
After you are done you might re-evaluate the situation. What was the need for Jimmy to reach the plug?
- Is it a ‘need’ for attention? – Should I assign some extra time to spend together?
- Is it a ‘need’ for discovery? – Should I add a few new or more challenging items to the environment?
- Is it a ‘need’ to assert himself? — Should I provide more choices when possible? (Asking a child do you want to wear red or blue shorts today?)
Wishing you all the best in the difficult yet exciting journey of parenting!