What do I do if I'm not sure about a limit?
We've been talking about boundaries and limit setting the last few weeks. If you're looking for information about why boundaries are important you can read that here. And hopefully you've been able to take some time and think about your family's values, and how your limits help enforce your values like we talked about here.
Talking with your child about your shared family values, and then working together to determine how they affect the limits you set SHOULD make limit setting a lot easier. Your child has been involved and helped you create the limits, and they understand why they're important. Thankfully most of what we do is pretty routine so once you enforce the limit a few times (and more on this in a future post!), it should go smoothly.
But what do we do when our child does something out of the ordinary (starts to climb a tall tree at the park), or asks to do something and you're just not sure ("Can I play with paints?"). It's natural to either jump to a quick, "No." Then cue the meltdown, which most parents respond to by giving in ("Fine, you can do it") , or they get caught in a power struggle where both parties are trying to "win". But there's another choice... PAUSE!
That's right, you don't have to give an immediate answer. In the case of safety you can simply move closer, and get curious. Does it look like they are being safe? What would be the consequences if they fell? Is it worth letting them explore and have some independence here, or do you need to intervene? Can you ask them a question about how they're feeling and if they need your help?
When your child asks you a direct question, and you're not sure how you want to respond, again PAUSE. Let them know, "Hmmm... I'm not sure about that. Let me take a minute to think about it." Again, ask yourself: What would the consequences of saying "yes" be? Are you okay with those consequences? Is there a family values this would be going against?
If it's a bigger question, it can help to talk it out with your co-parent or a friend. Then when you're ready you can either say yes, or set the limit confidently and with an explanation for your child. If you want to say yes, but have some concerns, then try talking to your child about those concerns. See if you can come to an agreement ("I would love to let you play with paints, but I'm worried about the mess. I would be okay with doing them outside or in the bathtub. What do you think?").
If you need help with how to think through which limits are worth enforcing, or are just feeling lost on your parenting journey (why don't kids come with a manual?!), you're not alone. Click here to set up a problem solving support call, where you'll get a chance to tell me your struggles or fears, and I'll help you come up with a plan to raise a child that you enjoy being around.