Wednesday, May 18, 2011

More thoughts on Limits...

From my last post.

So I was thinking on it some more and this is some of the thing that came to mind...

I want my children to have a different childhood than I did. Growing up I felt constantly frustrated by my lack of control in my own life. Grownups told you what to think, what to say, what to do, and when to do it. And if you didn't do it all as they said, they told you that you were wrong. If you voiced frustration they shamed you. If you had an outburst or a tantrum (sometimes) they hit you.They made my voice, my desires feel bad.

Consequently I struggle with setting limits and boundaries with the people around me. I've gotten a lot more assertive over the last few years. But fresh out of high school (or even in high school for that matter)? I was a mess. People walked ALL over me, and I let them.  I felt shame for wanting to speak up and say "no"....I had been taught that saying "no" was WRONG. Even, un-Christ like.

I desperately want my children to know how to say "no". To have a good loud and healthy "NO". I want them to have choices, to feel power over their lives. I still struggle with the old tapes that say, "They can't talk to me like THAT! If I had done that as a child I would have gotten a serious spanking!"

And you know what? I don't tolerate rude or long drawn out "no's" (obviously from my older dd- who is starting to get a little sassy some times). I have her "try again" "You can say 'No', but you need to use a firm strong voice instead of a whiny one."
But my children are welcome to say no, they can protest. They can show their displeasure. They can tantrum. And some times (95% if the time) they still have to do it anyway. No matter how big their feelings on the matter, they still have to get in the bathtub and wash the sand off their body. Since we co-sleep sandy body = sandy sheets. No thank you! And there have been a few times I have had to wrestle them into their car seat, because we have to be some where (like to pick their Daddy up from work).

Some times their big feelings are because I've screwed up and haven't set them up for success.  I take it as a lesson, I need to plan better and advocate better.

But bottom line, I want my children to learn how to take "NO" in life too. Letting them always have the say, always have a choice, or setting MY needs aside for theirs ALL the time: will injure their understanding of limits. Maybe even more than mine were injured as a child. I want to raise adults who can "take no for an answer". Mature adults who cope with it in a healthy way, and move on. Because, I'm not just raising children, I'm raising future adults.

Now I don't expect them to be good at taking "No", especially as young as they are! I will be working with them on this for a very long time.  When they protest I teach them how to hear how they feel. I want them to recognize what their true feelings are so they can react appropriately. I teach this by reflecting it to them, "I know you're so ANGRY that you have to take this bath. I know you don't WANT a bath right now. It makes you really mad!!!!! We're going to do this really fast...Lets rinse off the sand so we don't shake it off in our bed. Do you want to sleep in the sand pit? You DO!? Where would you sleep, under the big rock with all the toy trucks? What if we made our bed a sand pit? Would sand feel good in our sheets? It WOULDN'T?! Would it be all scratchy? Yeah...Oh look you're CLEAN! All done!""

When they strike out in anger I teach them what they can do instead. "You're so angry because I said you couldn't play with my VERY SHARP scissors. YOU WANT THEM. But those are dangerous!  They could hurt you! Would you like your special blue scissors instead? What do you want to cut with them? Paper or foam?"""

If they are just too caught up in their tantrum I carry them to their room, let them have it out in their bed (and I stay with them or leave depending on what they seem to need). And when the tears of frustration have turned from rage to "I'm just doing this because I'm alone and I need to be talked down now" place I move in and comfort and help them move on.

Some times frustration is good. And having a safe place and a healthy outlet (knowing it's OKAY) is even better.

So in the end, in an effort to have my children have healthy boundaries for themselves, I don't want to neglect another very important part of their character, the ability to take other peoples "no".  Because that could be just as (if not more so) devastating as becoming a "door mat".


  1. Beautifully expressed! Sharing on FB. :)

  2. That's exactly what I do with my daughter! I always tell her, "It's OK for you to be angry. You're MAD because [insert valid reason here] and I understand." It only takes 10 seconds to acknowledge a child's feelings as valid, but once I do, that piece of compassionate parenting allows me an "in" to help her with a situation where we disagree, or she disagrees with someone else - instead of putting myself in a place of authority and using shame as a tool (i.e. "you must NOT act like that! Be a good girl and apologize!" etc)

    Good goin, mama!


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