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Limited time: The 5-step strategy to setting effective limits with your child
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We were getting out of the park to go home after a morning my son spent with his best friend. I was still angry, and he probably felt this because he was quietly riding his little blue scooter next to me.
I waited for the play date to be over for us to be able to talk about what happened. So I started by telling him that I was really upset because of what happened.
My son likes to speed up on his scooter and then release the handle and let the scooter roll on the road on its own. I know that this is fun for him and his friend so I never asked him to stop. But I did talk with him about safety and about the importance of only doing this in a place where there are no other kids.
He understood the reasons and agreed to do so. For a while, we had no issues with this rule. But that day was different.
Suddenly he and his friend started doing this in the middle of the playground. There were other kids and even babies around them so this was dangerous.
I reminded him about the rule and asked him to stop. When it happened the second time, I knew that it was time to be firmer about setting a limit. We talked about the danger of hitting other kids, and he told me that he would stop.
It all went well until almost the end of our play date. It was nearly lunchtime, so there were only a few kids on the playground.
B. and his friend were riding their scooters around the playground. Then, out of the sudden, they did the dangerous trick with the scooters again. One of the scooters was heading directly to a baby and only a last moment reaction from my part prevented a painful accident from happening.
I was so angry!
B. realized the gravity of his actions immediately, apologized to the baby’s mom, and tried to repair this mistake. Without any word on my part, he decided to park the scooter and came to me saying he was sorry.
I told him that I couldn’t let him ride the scooter in the playground again that day because I couldn’t trust that he wouldn’t do the same dangerous thing again. He didn’t complain about my decision and went back to playing with his friend.
On our way home I knew that I needed to talk with him about what happened.
So I started with a calm voice. But as I was explaining to him how upset I was, I got angrier, and the discussion turned into a lecture.
I kept telling him again and again how dangerous his actions were. I wanted him to understand how scared I was when I saw the scooter heading to the baby. And I wanted to make sure that he will never do it again.
But the truth is that my monologue was far from a teaching moment. It was more a rambling about what happened and a repetition of the same phrases.
I could see that my son was no longer listening to me. This should have made me stop, but instead, it made me get more talkative.
By the time we went home, I had realized that we talked about the same thing during the whole walk. Or to be more accurate, *I talked* about the same thing during the entire walk. This meant 15 minutes of lecturing!
There was that rational voice inside of me all the time telling me to stop. But my emotions took over, and I literally couldn’t stop!
Why lecturing doesn’t work
I felt disappointed because I knew better and still I let my emotions get the best of me.
I knew that lecturing kids is not an effective method to discipline kids and I wished I would have chosen a better way to deal with what happened.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t the first time when I made this mistake.
My first instinct when something bad happened was to lecture my son about it. And it took me some work to keep this under control.
The truth is that using a lot of words and repeating the same thing over and over again is just overwhelming the child. After a while, the child stops listening.
This method is not promoting communication and problem-solving. It only brings additional disconnection between the parent and the child.
What finally worked
I tried several ideas in my attempt to stop my impulse of lecturing my son. For a while, nothing worked. I had the best intentions, but when I felt angry or upset, I ended up lecturing my son.
One day I was talking about my problem with a friend. She is the mom of two kids and one of the most positive and calm parents that I know.
To my surprise, she told me that she had the same struggle for a long time. Luckily, she found a solution and shared it with me.
And it was so easy and effective that I wanted to share it with other parents too!
We called it “the 3-phrase lecture” and it was the only solution that helped me!
Here is how it works:
Every time you feel the impulse of disciplining your child through a lecture, take a short pause and try to calm down.
Then, commit to formulate your “speech” in only 3 phrases. It will be a little difficult at first, so take some time and make sure that you know exactly what to say in those phrases.
After you decide on the 3 phrases, go to the child, make eye contact, and make sure that they are listening.
Say the phrases and then pause. If the child needs additional clarifications, offer them without deviating from the topic and repeating what you already said. If necessary, discuss the problem with your child until you get to a solution together.
End by saying something like: “This is very important to me, and I want to make sure that you will remember what we talked about. Could you please repeat what we agreed on so I know we are on the same page?”.
You can celebrate the agreement with a hug to end the discussion in a positive and connecting way.
Why this simple trick works
The reason why this easy trick works is really simple. First of all, the fact that you need to think about the 3 phrases before talking to the child allows you to calm down and switch from the emotional state you are into a more rational one.
Second, young kids have short attention spans, so a long speech is entirely useless. It only makes you get angrier and feel more frustrated. Concentrating all your ideas into 3 phrases allows your child to fully listen to what you have to say.
This solution is focused on connection instead of correction, and this makes it a great positive parenting tool.
If you struggle with keeping the impulse of lecturing your kids under control, try this easy trick! It will help you feel less frustrated and improve the communication with your kids!
More helpful tips for disciplining kids
- How to get kids to listen in a calm and positive way
- The best way to discipline kids in a positive manner and teach them how to do better
- What helped me become a calmer mom and be gentle with my child even if I’m angry
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photo credit: Yuganov Konstantin / shutterstock.com