About Me

I am a parent coach. I received my MSW from Simmons School of Social Work and have been a licensed social worker practicing in the greater Boston area for over 20 years. My dream has always been to work with parents on the most important job in their lives. In my practice and in my blog I want parents to be heard, supported and informed in order to feel empowered to be effective as parents. I love helping parents find joy and mastery in their parenting.

"Stop trying to perfect your child, but keep trying to perfect your relationship with him" - Dr. Henker

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Compassionate Parenting and Limit Setting at the Same Time

In my previous post, I wrote about finding ways to be kinder and more compassionate to ourselves as parents.  We can begin to notice our inner self-critics and slowly, over time, learn to respond to ourselves with the kindness and compassion usually reserved for dear friends.  This approach ends up affecting all our interpersonal relationships, especially with our children.

Treating ourselves, and our children, in a kind and compassionate way does not mean being overly permissive, and/or accepting inappropriate behavior.

Effective limit setting is the strategy we use to teach our children to behave appropriately inside and outside our homes.  The word discipline literally means “to teach” and limit setting teaches children the acceptable and unacceptable behaviors in different spheres of their lives.  We use consequences as a way to help the children reinforce the lessons.

Sometimes children make mistakes, spilling their milk, breaking an object, or not setting the table correctly.  Sometimes children intentionally misbehave.  We have to respond to that misbehavior to teach them right from wrong, and to make clear our expectations of them.  I believe, the limit setting strategies work for both mistakes, and intentional misbehavior.  Therefore, I prefer to use the same word for responding to both-consequences, as opposed to punishment.  The end effect is the same, we teach our children by showing them that their actions have consequences, they are responsible for their actions, and responsible for rectifying the situation, or paying the negative consequence.

Here are my tips on limit setting with children in a nutshell:
1.     It is children’s job to test limits.  They are hard-wired to do so.  It is the parent’s job to set and enforce limits.
2.     Some parents are afraid their children won’t like them if they set limits.  In fact it is limits that help children to feel safe, and know that the adults in their lives are in control.  Children love their parents; it’s okay if they don’t always “like” them in a given moment.
3.     We want our children to love and respect us, but it is not our job to be their friend.  Children need us to be their parents.  We can still have warm, kind, loving and fun relationships with them, while firmly and effectively setting limits.  We can become friends with our children as they grow into adults.
4.     We have to be able to tolerate that our children will feel and act angry towards us when we set limits.  It does not mean that we are being unkind, or hurting them.  The fact that they are angry doesn’t mean that we will lose their love.
5.     Consistency is probably the most important factor in effective limit setting.  If a child knows that if they cry harder and harder, they will get the treat they are asking for in the supermarket, they will keep on crying until they get it!  It is better not to threaten a consequence, than to threaten and not follow through.
6.     It is best not to lecture or over explain while setting limits.  Children lose focus while we talk on and on.  If we engage in arguments with them about it, they may develop skills as an attorney, but their behavior will not improve.
7.     One can remain calm and set limits without shaming children.

In future posts I will go into each of these aspects in depth and provide practical strategies for achieving them.  These tips are much more easily said than done!

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