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  • Brittany Podsobinski

How do I actually set a limit with my child?

I've definitely been there, we get to the supermarket and one of my kids says, "Can we PLEASE buy a race car?" (Side note... why do they have toys at the grocery store?!). Or we are playing at the park and my kids knock another kid over as they're running around chasing one another. Can you relate?



We've talked about choosing our limits intentionally based on the values of the family, AND how to pause and assess if a limit needs to be set. Now let's look at HOW to go about setting the limit in a way that will encourage cooperation from your child.


  1. Be proactive. The biggest mistake I made in the examples above is I didn't talk about the rules / expectations / limits BEFORE the situation came up. You certainly can't predict every situation that might arise, but you can anticipate a lot of them. Talking about it ahead of time helps because our children tend to be in a calmer state, instead of distracted by the fun they're having or the shiny toy in front of them. This makes it less likely that you'll have a meltdown, and more likely they'll cooperate. The car ride to a destination is a GREAT time to have this talk. The kids are held captive in their seats, so you are more likely to have their attention. Don't assume they remember from the last time you went to the park / store / friend's house. Get in the habit of going over the expectations and limits every time.

  2. Give a brief explanation of the expectations / rules / limits, and the "why" behind it. This is where you can include your family value, or reasoning for why this is important. Here is where you gain their buy in. I use starters like, "I worry that....." or "My job is to..." or "In our family we..." to get started.

  3. Test it out, and check for understanding. Have some fun here. If you're driving you can verbally run through playful scenarios and ask them if that's what they should do. Practice what not to do, along with what they are expected to do. With younger kids, in brand new situations, or areas that have been a problem in the past, it can be helpful to play with toys or role play to really make sure they understand.

  4. Ask if they have any questions. Make sure they know that they're allowed to talk to you respectfully if they think this rule or limit is unfair. If your kids know that they can come to you and they'll be heard, they are more likely to speak up instead of being sneaky and breaking the limit.


Here are some examples:

I'm okay with you playing in the kitchen but look at the stove - the flame is on. It's hot! You can even feel the heat from here, want to try?

I worry that you'll burn yourself. My job is to keep you safe, so stay behind this line on the kitchen floor.

Let's practice - should you stand here (stand behind the line and look for acknowledgment) YES! How about here? (Stand too close to the stove and look for acknowledgment) NO! Sounds like you've got it!

Any questions?



We're going to Target to get a gift for your friends birthday party! I'm so excited.

We're only going to be getting something for your friend, and I'll let you know the price we have to spend, so you can help pick it out. We're not going to get any toys for you today. But Christmas is coming up so if you see anything you want to add to your Christmas list, let me know and I'll take a picture, so I can show it to your grandparents.

Okay - who are we buying toys for? FRIEND! What can you do if you see something you want? Take a picture. Awesome! What do you think I should do if I see something I want?

Any questions?


If you forget to do this proactively - just regroup. Bring your child close to you, preferably away from other distractions, and let them know you forgot to talk about the "rules of the park" or "rules of of this trip". Then go through steps 2-4.


Thanks for coming over. I am noticing a lot of younger kids at the park today.

I worry that the game you're playing could knock one of them over since you're running SO FAST. If you want to play this game, you need to go over to that side of the playground where there's more room so everyone is safe. Do you see where I'm pointing? Great!

Any questions? I'll be watching from right here, have fun!


If this sounds great but you're just not sure how to implement it with your child, or how to even get started, schedule a problem solving support call by clicking on this link. I'm here in support of you!







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