Setting Limits: Saying “No” To The Yellow Bowl Lets the Storm Cloud Lift

English

Staylistening With Chloé Saint Guilhem

A friend and I were spending our vacation together. Between us we had five children aged from three to six years old. It was their first time meeting.

A few times I had perceived a little upset from my son, Lucas. One night, he had not wanted me to leave the room before he fell asleep, and then I had felt he awoke still a little saddened the next morning. His face was blank as I approached him, and he hid in the pillows. I did spend a few minutes Playlistening with him in an attempt to connect with him, but probably not as much as he needed.

A while later, we all took a seat at the table for breakfast, but Lucas was not satisfied with the seat that remained free for him. I checked with him to see which seat he thought would suit him better, and soon found a more agreeable arrangement, but then he said, “I want the yellow bowl, like Diego.”

Although I sensed that he was going to need some connection, I tried offering him a similar yellow bowl to the one his friend had. He pointed out that this other yellow bowl had a blue groove on the edge and therefore didn’t suit him at all!

At that time, it seemed necessary for me to set a limit. I moved to Lucas slowly, kneeling by his chair so that I could look him in the eye. “There is no other yellow bowl like Diego’s,” I said softly.

Lucas immediately began to cry. It was a very soft, but deep cry and tears were rolling down his cheeks. I felt sadness behind his tears that day.

A few times I repeated the trigger, telling him, “Another time you can have the yellow bowl, ” or, “I’m sorry that you cannot have the yellow bowl this morning.” These words gave him a pretext to bump against, giving him full permission to cry as much as he needed.

Lucas kept crying a few more minutes and I kept close and Staylistened. Then, he stopped spontaneously – as if the rain clouds had passed! Breakfast continued in a very relaxed way, and I found Lucas particularly joyful, calm and cooperative, not just then, but throughout the day.

Why it Works:

Sometimes new situations can be unsettling for children, even when they can pinpoint or tell you why. You’ll notice this is happening if they start to move off-track. Instead of their lively, happy selves, you’ll see them acting out, not behaving as you’d prefer them too. They might become distant, aggressive, clingy or seek extra attention in other ways. These signs signal to you, “Help! All is not well.”

Laughter is a great stress reliever, and a perfect first port of call. Chloe tried Playlistening, trying to get laughter going. Games like “hunt the grouchy bug,” where you lift them into your arms and “search” their body for the pesky grouchy bugs might raise a smile and so can physical games.

But if this does not dislodge the pent up feelings, the behavior continues. Setting a Limit warmly, as Chloe did over the bowl, helps give a child reason to cry, and space to clear out all the yucky feelings bothering them. That’s why Lucas was able to carry on with his day in a more relaxed and playful way.

How do you set limits warmly? Read Listen Launch Post: Three Steps to Setting Limits.

How to See When Your Child is Disconnected shows you what signs to look for and how to move in calmly and help.

Chloé Saint Guilhem is a Certified Hand in Hand Instructor, psychologist and psychotherapist based in France and is mum to preschool-aged twin boys.

Connect with her at chloe@handinhandparenting.org

 

 

Read This Post In French:

Une amie et moi passions nos vacances ensemble, avec nos cinq enfants de trois à six ans, à nous deux. Nos enfants ne se connaissaient d’ailleurs pas avant ces vacances. Cela faisait donc quelques jours que nos amis étaient arrivés et à plusieurs reprises j’avais perçu un peu de tristesse ou de contrariété chez mon fils Lucas. La veille, il avait eu du mal à accepter que je quitte sa chambre avant qu’il ne se soit endormi ; puis je l’avais senti un peu chagriné ce matin là, au réveil. Il avait le visage fermé et se cachait dans un coussin. J’ai donc pris quelques minutes à proposer du Jeu-écoute pour me connecter avec lui, mais sûrement pas aussi longtemps qu’il en avait besoin.

Un peu plus tard, nous étions donc en train de nous mettre tous à table pour le petit déjeuner et Lucas ne s’est pas trouvé satisfait de la place qui se présentait à lui à priori. J’ai donc vérifié avec lui quelle place lui conviendrait, à côté de qui il voulait s’asseoir et nous avons facilement trouvé un arrangement. Puis il a dit : « Mais je voulais le bol jaune, comme Diego ». Là j’ai commencé à me dire qu’il y avait peut être bien un besoin de reconnexion et quelques émotions pas loin… Mais quand même puisqu’il y avait un autre bol jaune très similaire à la table, je le lui ai proposé. Sauf que cet autre bol jaune avait une rainure bleue sur le bord et qu’il ne lui convenait donc pas du tout…

A ce moment là, il m’a semblé opportun de poser une limite. Je me suis déplacée doucement près de Lucas, et comme il était assis sur sa chaise, je me suis agenouillée de façon à pouvoir le regarder dans les yeux. De là je lui ai dit : « Il n’y a pas d’autre bol jaune comme Diego »… Lucas s’est immédiatement mis à pleurer. C’était un pleur très doux, mais profond et les larmes coulaient sur ses joues. Je sentais de la tristesse derrière ses pleurs. Quelques fois j’ai insisté sur le « prétexte » qui l’avait amené à pleurer en lui disant : « Une autre fois tu pourras avoir le bol jaune » ; « Je suis désolée que tu ne puisses pas utiliser le bol jaune ce matin », ce qui relançait la décharge de ses sentiments désagréables. Lucas a continué de pleurer ainsi quelques minutes et je suis Restée-écouter. Il s’est arrêté de lui même comme si le nuage de pluie était passé et je l’ai alors senti très léger. La suite du petit déjeuner s’est déroulée de façon très détendue et je dirais même que j’ai trouvé Lucas particulièrement joyeux, posé et coopératif tout au long de la journée !

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