Articles about children

7 reasons not to set limits with your child.

How many times have you heard someone say that you should be setting clear limits for your child, as if this was the solution to most of the difficult problems that parents face? Many parents believe that if they aren’t setting limits, or they aren’t working effectively, that they are somehow failing.

There are at least 7 reasons why setting limits may not be ideal for your family.

  1. You may have a spirited or determined child who reacts strongly to having limits imposed on them. Some children are strong-willed by nature. They resist their parent’s attempts to control or limit them. This can lead to a great deal of yelling and fighting between parent and child and lingering bad feeling and resentment. No-one knows your child as well as you do. You will intuitively know if a top-down, parent-in-authority approach is not working well in your family.
  2. You may not enjoy the role of rule-maker or authority. Even though many of us were brought up to think that this was an essential part of being a parent, you may have other goals. You may want to be a parent who doesn’t try and control children with limits, consequences and boundaries. You may want to focus on respect and co-operation and finding solutions in partnership with your children.
  3. You may want your children to learn effective problem solving skills. If parents step in and set limits and rules there are missed opportunities for involving children in a problem solving process. When children are introduced to problem solving early in life they gain skills that they can apply throughout their lives. To show your children that there is always a way to find a win-win solution in any conflict is a very precious gift to give them.
  4. Some children appear to comply with limits but then act out in other ways. They may take their frustration out on a sibling or friend, or even start to harm themselves. There are many ways that children react to having power exercised over them and some of these can take years to surface. The fact is that most children hate to be restricted and controlled by their parents. There is a high probability that they will respond by lying, hoarding, sneaking or “acting out” at some stage.
  5. You may think that you love and accept your child while you set limits, but does your child see it this way? Whether a child feels unaccepted or unloved will be a determined by their personality, sensitivity and how many of their behaviours are deemed unacceptable by their parents. Do you want to take the risk that your child ends up feeling unloved when there are other, more peaceful ways of dealing with the issue?
  6. You may question the way that you were brought up and the values behind mainstream parenting. You may even be questioning your own ideas about how children “should behave” and traditional ideas about what behaviour is “right” and “wrong”. You may want to have a more heart-centred and intuitive relationship with your children that allows space for your child to explore, make mistakes and learn from them in a safe and supportive environment.
  7. Perhaps you simply don’t know what else to do. You may have resorted to setting limits because of your own frustration, resentment and overwhelm. Maybe you were feeling controlled by your child and that your own needs were not being met. You may have fallen into the trap of accepting behaviour that you really couldn’t handle. The good news is, it isn’t true that you have to opt for either setting limits or being overly permissive. There is another way.

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My sons love superheros and I am worried about the violence.

Post on Facebook: “Hi everyone, my 7yo boys currently love anything superhero. They have limited daily screen time and I try to give them as much choice as possible in how they use this (interesting iPad apps, access to certain websites, DVDs) but I feel like I’m constantly battling with them at the moment as all they want are superhero apps and superhero YouTube clips which I am not comfortable with as they have little substance and too much violence and they become obsessive about them. We have a wonderful busy and stimulating life outside of this one part of each day which has become a battleground.”

This is a question that was asked recently in a Facebook group I am in. It leapt out at me, both because of the superhero theme and because of the reminders of my own past struggles and the learning that I gained from them.

This was my response:

“I’m going to to go out on a bit of a limb here as this is such an important issue that I have struggled with myself in the past. It seems from what you say that you value peace and harmony and would like those qualities to be at the forefront of your children’s lives. And yet you say that you are constantly battling with your boys over this issue. I know what that can look and feel like as I went through the same things with my own two boys. I battled with them over their super-keen interest in fighting, questing, gaming, superheros, fantasy, shooting, weapons and all those related subjects. And what that looked like in practice was me getting frustrated, angry, yelling, threatening, trying to control through harsh words and manipulation etc. What I eventually came to realize is that all of these are forms of violence. It was emotional violence that my children were painfully aware of, even when it looked and sounded pretty mild by any conventional standards. And they were both highly sensitive to my words, actions and attitudes. I realized that if I really wanted peace and harmony that I needed to
make these a priority in my relationship with them. I know that my way of relating to them has SO much more impact on their wellbeing than anything they watch on TV or any game they play. Continue Reading →

How can I help with my child’s problems?

“Exude the state of being that you want your child to end up with and they will find their way to that.” Bentinho Massaro.

Being genuinely helpful to my children when they have problems is something that brings joy into my life. I want to give help that is calm, supportive and that increases my child’s confidence in their own ability to help themselves. This did not come naturally for me, at least not to the extent that I would have liked. It was a skill that required a lot of practice as well as a lot of unlearning of old, unhelpful habits. For example, I often fell into the trap of trying to fix a problem when my help was not requested. My child would react to my intrusion and I would become part of the problem.

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Daily tooth brushing and peaceful parenting: can they coexist?

“It is my responsibility to make sure that my son cleans his teeth every day,” I used to believe this very firmly. So do many parents I know. It seems like a reasonable belief until you have a child (or two!) that refuses to brush their teeth despite repeated requests. No amount of explanation as to why this is an important thing to do would change his mind. In these circumstances this belief can generate a lot of conflict, anxiety and stress – and it did.

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How I discovered the joys of less doing and more Being

Do you ever feel exhausted, overwhelmed or resentful as a result of what you do as a parent? Do you find that there are times when it all gets too much and you start loosing your temper and yelling at your children? I used to experience this often. I understand, now, that these were symptoms of over-doing. I was pushing myself to do way too much and believing that I had no choice. It seemed as if parenting was such a bottomless pit of work that feeling overwhelmed was inevitable. Fortunately, I have discovered that over-doing is not inevitable or incurable. The solution is less doing and more Being.

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Food, glorious food: our journey from nightmare to nourishment

I love food and I love caring for my body with the best food that I can provide. Until I had children, I thought that I had no real issues around food. It wasn’t a big deal for me. Having children changed all that. Not straight away, of course, but over a couple of years I gradually felt myself descending into a nightmare of anxiety and conflict that I had never experienced before.

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How will my children learn to stick at things?

I have chosen to have a relationship with my children that is free of punishment or rewards. We don’t have rules and I don’t force my children to do what I want. It might sound crazy to many people but it works wonderfully well for us. As I discussed in my last post, I don’t push my children to do things that I think will be good for them. So how do they learn to stick at things? Do they manage to master new skills that require a lot of effort? Amazingly enough, they do!

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Swimming, riding a bike, reading, piano … should I push my child to do these things?

An issue that I have discussed with friends and family many times in the last few years is whether, as parents, we should push our children to do things that we think will be beneficial for them.

Consider this scenario. I have a great plan for my son to learn to ride a bike. I just know that he will love it once he has got the hang of it. I am also really keen to get him out doing some healthy outdoor exercise. My son seems open to the idea, even excited. I go out and spend $300 dollars on a beautiful new bike for Christmas. I research the best way to teach a child to ride a bike. Off we go to the park and find a nice gentle grassy slope. My son gets on the bike while I hold it for him. I push it gently down the slope holding on at first. I let go and he starts rolling down the slope. He falls off and lands in the grass. After that he won’t get back on the bike again.

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I grow what I choose to give attention to

What you resist will persist. This has been such an important lesson for me to learn. It is so easy to resist things about our children, to not accept them as they are. How many times have I wanted to change something about my child? Somehow the problems came to dominate my thinking.

Unfortunately, focusing on what I wished would change did not seem to help. This is because you grow what you give attention to. What shows up in our lives is a direct reflection of our inner thoughts and emotions. If we devote our minds to what we don’t want we end up noticing it everywhere.

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Finding deep peace in parenting

I received the most extraordinary gifts when my children were born. These two people that entered my life have beamed out love, beauty and aliveness every day of their lives. They brought such delight into my life. And yet, living with and caring for them also challenged me to an extent that I was totally unprepared for. I was challenged so profoundly that it completely transformed my life. I have experienced liberation through parenting. Yes, I know that sounds weird, but bear with me.

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What about setting limits?

Of all the issues that come up for parents one of the most difficult and confusing is the one of when to say Yes and when to say No. And yet it’s the issue that comes up most often. No wonder so many parents are stressed.

The reason it comes up so often is that children have wants – and lots of them. They want to explore their world, to stay at the park, to have ice cream, to watch that movie on TV and for you to buy them the latest toy or game. It can go on and on. Working out what to say in response to all that wanting can be difficult. It is an ongoing challenge for me to speak the simple words Yes and No with clarity, honesty and integrity. I am still experimenting and learning every day and I want to share what I have discovered so far.

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