Limit Setting with My Almost Two-Year Old

Jul 16, 2011

There are many forms of discipline that are implemented with children, though none more effective than Play Therapy Limit Setting, in my opinion. Here are some of the benefits, as I see them:

1. It can be used with any age, from toddlers to teenagers. (Adults too, actually, but I will save that for a later date!)

2. It is the same process every time, regardless of the situation.

3. Once you get the language of it, it is extremely easy to use.

4. With practice, you and your child will begin to use the word “choose” regarding behavior.

5. It gives your child the responsibility to make the choice to follow or break the limit.

6. It is three easy steps : Acknowledge the feeling driving the behavior, Set the limit (the rule), and Provide an alternative to the original behavior.

7. If it happens three times, you set an ultimate limit (see below).

So, I could go on with many more examples of why it is so helpful, but let me give you a recent example of what happened with my son. As a note, many discipline tactics are not appropriate or effective with very young children, but I have been using this with my son since he was old enough to walk, and he’s been very receptive to the techniques.

My son was up on our couch and decided to stand up. I did not feel that this was safe because we have tile floors, and he knows that I do not allow him to do that. I went over, knelt down in front of him (eye contact is crucial!), and this is what happened:

Brenna: “I know you think it is fun to stand up on the couch, but the couch is not for standing up on. You can choose to sit on your bootie or you can choose to lay down on your belly.”

Kayne: Looked at me while processing the choice, and sat down on his bottom, complying.

B: “You chose to sit down on your bootie.”

K: A few second later, stood up again.

B: “The couch is not for standing up on. You can choose to sit on your bootie, or you can choose to lay down on your belly.”

K: Looked at me, sat down on his bootie, then laid down on his belly.

B: “You chose to sit down and lay down.”

K: A few seconds later, stood up again.

B: *ULTIMATE LIMIT : “Kayne, the couch is not for standing up on because that is not safe. If you choose to stand up on the couch, you choose to get off the couch. If you choose to sit on your bootie or lay on your belly, you choose to stay up on the couch.”

K: Sits down on his bootie and immediately stands back up.

B: “I see you’ve chosen to get off the couch.”

K: Immediately sits down, but I pick him up and put him on the floor. He begins to whine and fuss and try to climb back up on the couch.

B: “I know you wish you would have chosen to sit on the couch, but you chose to stand up so now you have chosen to not be on the couch. The couch is not for standing on.”

K: He continues to fuss, but I do not allow him back on the couch. Within a few seconds, he is playing with another toy.

So, what does this illustrate? First, toddlers do understand rules and they need help understanding consequences. Had I just put him on the floor the first time he stood up, he would have learned nothing other than Mom made me get down off the couch. Through this process, he learned that he is responsible for his behavior, and the choice is his to obey or break the limits. Second, he learned that I am consistent and do not give in when a rule is established. Third, he knows that I will be patient and respectful to him while he learns this process, without yelling or getting angry.

You can read more about Limit Setting here: Tips for Disciplining Children and Limit Setting.

You will feel so much more free and less burdened when you allow children to decide for themselves whether or not to obey. You will only provide the limits, and allow the child to choose the outcome. With practice, you will be seeing huge changes in your discipline tactics and your children’s responses!


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