Boy oh boy, if there’s ever any struggle I see parents have it’s setting limits with their child. Setting limits is an important part of parenting and it has to happen on a daily basis in order to keep your child safe, and guide her through life. I bet you’ve struggled from time to time with how to set limits with your child. She either pushes back, tries to negotiate, gives an attitude, or straight up just tells you “No.”
This is a frustrating situation for parents to be in. Learning how to deal with it now while your child is young is really going to help later when you have a teen on your hand who pushes the limits.
Keep reading for five easy steps involved in limit setting.
1. Plan which limits you’ll set with your spouse/co-parent before you tell your child.
This is an important first step that you might have missed. If you set a limit with your child but your spouse disagrees, it will only blow up later. Your child will split you and your spouse because she knows she can go behind your back. And no, the responsibility is not on her to listen to one parent and not the other. The responsibility is on you and your spouse to work together as a team (united front, so to speak) so your child knows the limit you’re trying to set is valued by both parents.
2. State the limit.
State it without nagging, yelling, lecturing and all that other language that makes your child tune you out. It looks like this: “You can be on social media 30 minutes a day after school, and then you must start your homework. When you finish your homework, you can have 30 more minutes.” Simple, right?
3. Give the reason behind the limit.
The first sentence out of your child’s mouth is going to be “But why mom???” Second sentence? “That’s not fair!!!!” What your child is trying to communicate is she wants a reason so it makes sense to her. And that’s ok. You should have a reason for why you do what you do. Ex: “Your teacher told me you have been turning your homework in unfinished and now you have a “C”. When you consistently show your teacher and I you can turn your homework in on time and raise that grade, then you can go back to 1 hour of social media before homework.”
4. If your child compromises, consider the request…
There’s no reason to be a dictator when setting limits. It’s actually good if your child counter offers and that you give some consideration to the request. This helps your child to feel like she’s part of the solution, and helps with the buy-in. A sample response might be “I see what your saying, let me think about it and get back to you tonight.” However, you should only do so if the compromise is justified and it will actually work.
5. …but don’t argue back with your child.
If your child starts to argue, uses threats, or tries to bully you, identify that behavior as unhelpful and calmly but firmly restate the limit. Remember, it takes two to argue. Redirect the conversation, take a break from each other to cool down, and reengage at a later time.
Bottom line: The hardest thing about setting limits is the follow through. But following through is hard when your child is trying to manipulate or bully you into dropping the limit. Stay cool, calm, consistent, and clear in your language and that will make limit setting that less painful for you and your child.
Please comment below: What limits do you have the hardest time setting with your child? What techniques do you use when setting limits?
Jenmarie Eadie is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker who is passionate about helping children to become less stressed by giving them and their parents tools, support and encouragement. She received her Master’s in Social Work from Arizona State with a dual concentration in Children, Youth, and Families; and Behavioral Health. Her proudest accomplishment is following her dream of opening up a practice that is designed to focus on the whole family. She currently serves families in Southern California.