Setting and communicating limits

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Setting and communicating limits

When we are setting limits with our young children, we need to be short and clear. If they don't have a choice in the matter, we need to be clear about that. We often add the word "okay" after we set a limit. What we mean is, do you understand? For a child, that gives them a false message that they have a choice or we are asking permission. "I have to go to work now. I have to say goodbye, okay?" If a child answers that question with a "no," the parent is caught in a bind. They have to go to work anyway, which often leaves the child confused and pretty powerless. Instead, to avoid that confusion, we can say, "I want to make sure you heard me." Another reason why we say "okay," after we set a limit, is we want our child to agree with us to avoid big feelings. In this way, the child also doesn't feel supported. We don't ask permission from our children when we are setting limits, and if big feelings come up, we can support them in their big feelings and the limit stays the same.

Watch Video: Setting and communicating limits by Barbara Olinger, MSW, ...


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Barbara Olinger, MSW

Parenting Consultant

Barbara Olinger has her master's degree in social work and has been working with children and families in both therapeutic and educational settings for over 30 years. She is currently Director of Family Development at the YWCA Santa Monica/Westside and has a private practice focusing on parenting education and teacher training.  She is the author of the parenting book, Growing From the Roots: A Practical Guide to the Art of Parenting, now on DVD along with Welcoming Your Second Child. She has two sons, ages 23 and 20 years old.  

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