Staying Calm while Setting Limits

January 15, 2015

I found this article today at Yahoo! Parenting by Erin Zammett Ruddy. Her 7-year-old shoplifted and she made him return to the store and pay for it. Many of you may have had a similar experience growing up and I'm sure it made a lasting impression. What stood out to me was the section where Ruddy consulted a child psychologist and what she said about setting limits and staying calm. It reads:


As it turns out, my father did know best. “Returning to the store is absolutely the right thing to do,” Laura Markham, Ph.D., a New York City-based child psychologist and author of Peaceful Parent, Happy Kid, tells Yahoo Parenting. “Many children steal—they’re not born knowing the rules so it’s our job to teach them and it’s not by smacking their hand every time they break the rule — it’s by lovingly setting limits.” 


And staying calm when you set them. “If you overreact or yell, you might create a fascination with the behavior and a willful child will be more likely to rebel against it,” she says. Having a child physically return the stolen item helps him or her grasp the situation—and the consequence.


In my head, I combined the bolded parts above into one sentence - Lovingly setting limits and staying calm when you set them. Part of teaching children what is acceptable behavior, as parents or teachers, is to model it ourselves. If we lose our heads when frustrated we signal to the child to do it in turn - they will follow our lead. Staying calm is the means by which we maintain control of our behavior and emotions; when we become upset, we lose that control. Remaining calm allows us to retain the ability to make decisions and not simply react. Not only will the child see you keep a level head, but the action you take next will likely be more rational, deliberate and meaningful.

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