Gentle Parenting Basics: When and How to Set Limits
Gentle parenting is often confused with permissive parenting. This couldn’t be further from the truth.
It is because my kids know our boundaries that they are well behaved. Fear of me or consequences has nothing to do with their behavior.
The secret is knowing when and how to set limits.
When to Set Limits
The simple answer is as early as possible. Not after you’ve told them 1,000 times.
Set your limits before it becomes a problem
For my younger kids, this means I stop the behavior as soon as it happens. If one throws a toy, I take it away immediately. No second chances.
For older kids, this means that I have a short pep talk with them before we go into a store, a library, or anywhere. I cover exactly what I expect them to do. I ask them questions about my expectations so I can gauge their level of understanding.
Talk about Misbehavior When Calm
Sometimes when my spoons are short, and I get frustrated, I lecture. It’s cathartic.
My kids never learn a thing from it. In fact, they just shut down and ignore me. So a great time to talk about their past misbehavior is after everyone is calm. But the best time to talk about misbehavior is actually before a child misbehaves.
Read lots of books to kids and talk about the characters’ experiences. Ask them what they would do if they were in the main character’s place. Talk about the motivations of the characters, good and bad.
Do the same with movies, experiences, and you can teach kids so much about social cues and proper reactions before a problem ever exists.
How to Set Limits
Connection and understanding is the key to gaining cooperation with your kids. And I am talking about real cooperation that means your kids obey even when you aren’t there.
Kids and teens have short attention spans. Talking too much will max it out. And the more words you say the muddier your point gets.
Keep it short. If my kids wander off in the store, I say something like “Keep your hand on the cart. This way I know you are close and safe.”
Tell your child exactly what you want them TO DO.
Avoid using words like “don’t” because it is often paired with what you DON’T WANT them to do.
For example, “don’t run in the house.” They are hearing "run in the house." And they may not process the “don’t” easily, especially in toddlers and preschoolers.
I would say something like “walk inside the house.”
If your child throws a toy, take the toy away THE FIRST TIME.
This proactive parenting does 2 things:
1.) Establishes clear boundaries early and clearly
2.) Reduces stress on you
The goal here is to be clear about your expectations of your child’s behavior and for you to keep your stress levels at a minimum.
In conclusion, gentle parenting isn’t permissive. It doesn’t mean your kids walk all over you. Gentle parenting is ACTIVE and INVOLVED.