Setting Limits with kids

Sometimes the Answer Just Has To Be “No”

from the hand in hand blog(1)

By Andrea McCracken

As parents, we often fight with the idea of saying “no” to our children, especially if it means a big upset in public.

But sometimes the behaviour that isSetting Limits with kids driving us batty is because children need a definite “no” to push back from. And sometimes the best thing they can do is to push back. The “no” lets them release tears and wipes out what ever hurts or frustrations they are holding, so they they can move through to smiles and – good news for us – further cooperation. Which is why,  sometimes, the answer just has to be “no”.

Here's how one Hand in Hand parent stuck to her “no” at the grocery store.

Saying No

“My 5-year old daughter rarely likes going shopping and this day she was especially unhappy about coming to the grocery store with me and her 2-year-old sister. She had been complaining and whining on and off all afternoon and I could tell she needed a release.

Grocery shopping can often be a challenge for us and this day was no different. As we moved through the store, I was thankful that she wasn’t complaining the entire time. I could see she was trying but really having a hard time keeping herself together. I guessed that since she'd been at kindergarten and other activities where she'd had no say, she was unhappy at being forced to follow an adult's orders yet again.

As we moved through one of the last aisles of the store, she asked for a cereal we don’t usually buy and that I don’t typically like to have in the house.

I told her we wouldn’t buy that cereal because it’s not good for her body. She was instantly, over-the-top upset about not having the cereal, stomping and yelling and wriggling her body all over the store, begging and pleading for the cereal.

I decided I would hold the limit and get to the car as soon as possible, so that she could release her tension in “private”. I paid for our items and left the store as soon as I could with both girls. I recognized that her behavior was off-track and that she needed listening time. She was shaking and writhing and whining and complaining loudly in the store, in the checkout line and all the way to the car.

As an added kick, I often take the girls to the bookstore next door after this grocery store so on this day, when I told the girls that we were going home rather than to the bookstore, they both got upset. My 5-year-old kicked and screamed her 5-year-old heart out in the car.

Keeping to No

I held the limit no matter how many times she asked to go to the bookstore.

She screamed and complained and whined for at least 15 minutes and although I wasn’t able to move close and Staylisten because I was driving, she did have the chance to offload her anger and other built-up feelings from the day.

When we arrived home, she took a few minutes to finish her upset, collect herself and get out of the car.

She was back to her smiling, light-hearted, loving self for the rest of the day.

Setting and holding the limit was inconvenient and unpleasant in the moment. I felt empathy for her big feelings and for the other shoppers in the store who witnessed her emotional outburst. For a brief moment, I thought about buying the cereal she asked for, but I knew that her big feelings would still be trapped inside and I would just be extending our difficult afternoon into the evening and to dinner.

In the end, holding the limit allowed for my daughter to recover from her upsets and enjoy the rest of the day.

Hand in Hand's online class Setting Limits and Building Cooperation is free with your Parent club Membership.


Andrea McCracken is a candidate in the Hand in Hand Instructor Certification program.



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