Setting Limits as a Family

from the hand in hand blog(1)

I was just reflecting on how much progress my family has made with the listening tools.

Yesterday, I was working late, and my au pair (from Mexico) was eating dinner with my children and getting them ready for bed. The plan was for me to get home before 7 pm to take over the bedtime reading.

setting-limits-familyWhile I was at work, I checked in via text.┬áThe au pair reported that things were good now but that, an hour before, my four-year-old daughter had had a big upset. The au pair had held a limit regarding screen time, and my daughter didn't like it and called her “Stupid!” The au pair took the iPad away and held my daughter, who cried and cried and then all of a sudden went to the playroom to play.

Then, at dinner, my four-year-old started throwing her food. My au pair held a limit again by taking away her plate. Again my daughter recovered and cooperated.

All seemed well when I got home. My girls were bathed, in pajamas, and ready for bedtime reading and snuggles with me.

However, when we'd finished reading, my four-year-old refused to walk from my room to the girls' room. I held the limit. She eventually got to her bed — but it took a while, and then she had a meltdown, expressing intense fear, and wanted to go back to my bed. Again, I held the limit that she needed to stay in her bed.

She had a big crying session, and then she started asking for her sister, who was just across the room. My seven-year-old comforted her sister while I went to get some tissues.

By the time I got back, my younger daughter was lying under her covers, ready to sleep. When she woke up this morning, she was clear and happy. Phew!

I took time today to thank my au pair for catching on to the listening tools — she herself saw how well they worked yesterday. So far, in the 6 months she's been with us, she has used the tools only a few times, but I think she's already gaining confidence that she can set and hold limits. I trust her to use limits well, and I feel very fortunate to have found a caregiver who understands the approach that I am using with my girls. I feel blessed that she will be with us another 18 months. Hopefully, by the time we are ready to transition to our next caregiver, my girls will have worked through some of their issues.

I feel that my own limit-setting worked so well last night because my daughter had already offloaded some of her upsets earlier, with the au pair.

We've been using limits and listening tools for a while now, but using them with a set of team members, including our au pair, is new for me. I'm heartened that it is going so well.

— Mara

Mara blogs at

Download your free copy of Setting Limits with Children by Hand in Hand Parenting Founder, Patty Wipfler, or read about all about Hand in Hand's Five transforming Listening tools in her book, Listen: Five Simple Tools to Meet Your Everyday Parenting Challenges.

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