Write me: rebecca@positive-parents.org

Enforcing Limits While Remaining Close with Our Kids

For the past 6 years, I’ve centered my work around one message: Connection is everything. It’s the key to parenting. It’s the best-kept secret. It’s our ticket to enjoying the journey more, but how can we set boundaries and correct our children without losing that connection? If we confuse “staying connected” with “never upsetting our children,” things begin to get very hazy.

Early on in my transition to respectful, connected parenting, I made the mistake of confusing the two. Fearful of ruining our bond, I struggled with setting and enforcing limits, and the frustration that resulted almost caused me to go back to my traditional punitive ways. Thankfully, I kept reading and learning, and finally I figured out how to be the positive leader my kids needed. So, if you’re struggling with something similar in your parenting journey, I’d like to share with you what helped me learn to stand firm yet gentle in my position as leader.

Here’s something to remember. A good connection isn’t feeble.

It isn’t going to break because you say no. It isn’t going to crumble when you hold a boundary or even allow a consequence. A temporarily upset child (or parent) doesn’t equal a broken bond. When I was tip-toeing around my kids, afraid of breaking our connection by upsetting them, I felt powerless to change their behavior. When I realized our relationship wasn’t that fragile, I was able to set and enforce limits and correct my children’s off-track behavior with confidence.

Think of parenting like a balance scale for a moment.

There should be lots of positive, happy, snuggly, smiling moments and fewer negative (correcting, reprimanding, upsetting, frustrating) moments. The positive should outweigh the negative a good deal. When we focus too much on correcting or reprimanding and don’t give enough positive attention, the scale starts to tip in the wrong direction. When the negative outweighs the positive, connections crumble.

Therefore, to keep your connection secure, make sure your scale is favorable. If you’re going through a particularly challenging phase, up the positive attention!

Ah, but there’s a small caveat. Even though we may have fewer negative moments than positive moments, being harsh or shaming during correction and enforcing of limits is damaging to the relationship. In other words, saying “no, I won’t allow you to do that” isn’t damaging, but “you’re a bad boy, why would you be so mean?” is.

It turns out that shaming is a pretty common thing, and although children are very forgiving when we blow it, harsh words and actions leave their mark. So, learning how to approach negative behavior in a positive way is important for keeping our connections strong, and this requires a shift in mindset and approach.

Changing Your Mindset

Positive parenting requires a shift from a fear-based mindset to a love-based mindset. The fear-based mindset says:

  • I must control my child’s behavior. (authoritarian)
  • My child learns not to repeat bad behavior by being punished. (authoritarian)
  • I’m the dominant figure; my child is “under” me. (authoritarian)
  • My child will hate me if I upset him. (permissive)

Trying to positively parent with a fear-based mindset doesn’t work because the focus is still on who has the control, you or your child.

The love-based mindset says:

  • My role is to teach my child appropriate behavior.
  • My child learns through example and through limits set and enforced respectfully.
  • While I am the leader, my child is a human being with equal rights to be respected and heard.

The real shift occurs when you move away from controlling your child’s behavior toward understanding your child’s behavior. Only when you understand where it’s coming from can you help him learn to do better.

Changing Your Approach

Now that the focus is off control and on connection and understanding, how do you approach correcting her of enforcing your limit while maintaining your connection? …continue reading at Creative Child

For more of my Positive Parenting articles featured in Creative Child Magazine, click here.