Tag Archives: setting limits

5 Practical Strategies For Effective, Peaceful Discipline

The use of peaceful discipline is sometimes misunderstood, but when adopted correctly it has the potential to not only guide children towards making better choices but to also build their confidence.  When discipline uses fear, shame or other unpleasant strategies to force children to behave in an acceptable manner, it can have the complete reverse effect.

5 Practical Strategies for Effective Peaceful Discipline ~ Peaceful Parents, Confident Kids

Discipline can sometimes be used as a tool of power to wield over children in the hopes they will obey our every command. Using this form of discipline may indeed convince a child fairly quickly that they don’t want to feel that horrible feeling when they do something wrong. It may even consequentially reduce the undesired behaviour as intended but in doing this the child has missed out on a crucial step. They have been denied the opportunity of internalising the right way of doing things; coming to their own conclusion that they shouldn’t behave in that way with good reason. They haven’t learned the art of self-discipline.

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Why I Yelled and Why I’m Sorry!

Today I Yelled ~ Peaceful Parents, Confident Kids


I had had an emotional morning for a variety of (non-kid related) reasons. I found myself spiraling out of control as I was dealing with poop, a child who was objecting to being cleaned and another who was struggling with my mood and being extra clingy. When my clingy daughter tried to push the other away from me as I was trying to clean up the poop, I shouted:


She immediately burst into tears and ran to her room. I let her go. I needed space but I regretted yelling at her. She was reaching out to me, wanting reassurance that I was still her rock, even when I wasn’t feeling the best.

I went to her room after I had taken a couple of minutes to regroup. I knelt down to her and opened my arms, inviting her in. As she allowed herself to be enveloped into my embrace, I apologised wholly and completely. “I am sorry I yelled at you. I shouldn’t have done that and I wish I hadn’t. It doesn’t feel nice, I know, and I want you to know that I will always be here for you and I love you very much.”

She sniffled into my shoulder as we both paused in reflection. Finally she broke the silence with a surprising, thoughtful response. “It’s a ‘liddle’ bit scary when you yell. You must have been very mad, Mummy.” Tears flowed down my cheeks and she wiped them away. “Don’t worry, Mummy, you can have some of my birthday cake!” she empathised.

How could I have yelled at this child? I know why I did but how could I?

The truth is, it wasn’t her; I wasn’t mad at her. I had failed to take care of me and had taken it out on her. Sometimes life puts us in this predicament and we find there is little relief when we need it most. These are the times our emotions sit teetering on the edge, ready to jump out at the next opportune moment.

Just as our children build up their emotions and send them hurtling out at us when they can finally hold them no longer, we too do this. The difference is, we can and should control them. Whilst we can see beyond our children’s anger and emotions and see a hurting child during their outbursts, a child can’t possibly give us the same understanding, they feel our anger, take it on board and turn from us in fear.

This is why making amends is imperative.

The rest of our day was blissful. My daughter had a new sense of calm and tolerance about her which took her right through until bedtime. Taking that little bit of time out to reconnect and reassure her revived her confidence in me and allayed her fears. This then afforded me the space I needed to work through my own issues.

Today I yelled, but tomorrow I will try not to!

You may also like to read:

Damage Limitation Following a Parental Meltdown ~ Kate Russell (Peaceful Parents, Confident Kids)

Toddler Tantrum Therapy

Toddler Tantrum Therapy - Peaceful parents, Confident KidsTantrums in shopping centres are never good but much good can come of them. When a toddler tests limits it can be a sure sign they are in need of an emotional release. Time for some healing therapy.

We had one of these today. A big one. In the past, this was the type of tantrum that would result in me either losing it and joining in my toddler’s tantrum with my own screams and shouts or giving in to my toddler’s desire just to keep the peace and restore calm. But not today. Today I donned my Supermum cape to support my child through her strong feelings, ignoring the stares of onlookers and managing to calmly and confidently lead my child out of the centre and back to her own peaceful equilibrium.

We arrived at the shopping centre fairly early in the morning for the soul purpose of playing on the indoor play equipment. It has been recently set up for children five and under and consists of mostly soft play including a padded adventure climb, slide and a small immobile car with steering wheel.

The children adore playing here and there is often only two or three other families using it so it is never crowded and best of all it’s free. There are a number of rules sign posted which are fairly typical for the protection of both the children and the equipment. For a number of reasons I am a bit of a stickler for rules – 1. because I’m a teacher and 2. because I really appreciate having the use of this area and would like to see it preserved into the future so we can continue to enjoy it.

So I have always requested my children remove their shoes before playing (as per the rules) even though many other children do not. The girls had no problem taking off their shoes when we first arrived and even after a trip to the toilet and back again, there were no protests. But when we once again had to don our shoes for another toilet stop a relatively short time later, Penny was adamant her shoes were not coming back off.

I could kind of see her point. It must have seemed to her a waste of precious play time especially seeing she was not the one needing the toilet each time. But the rules remained and if she wanted to continue to play, she was going to need to remove them. Initially, she simply ignored the instruction and stepped into the play area. I restrained her gently and restated the expectation, “If you would like to play on the equipment you need to take your shoes off.”

She tried to wriggle free from me as her cries of protest began to escalate. I acknowledged, “You don’t want to take your shoes off again” and repeated, “I can’t let you go in there with your shoes on.” She fought hard and I carefully released my grip so she could have some space on the floor to voice her anger and frustration.

I stayed close by to let her know I heard her anguish and understood. She was not open to any words of comfort and eventually crawled under the table away from me and continued tantruming there.

I let her be. I stayed where I was and resolved to let it run its own course whilst keeping my eye on her older sister who was happily playing.

A short while later a ball rolled under the table to Penny which momentarily distracted her from her emotions. She crawled out with it and I asked her to hand it back to the small boy who had thrown it out of his pram. She did so willingly and then crawled back under the table to resume her cries. But the moment was lost by the distraction and she couldn’t get back to the intensity of the release she had been having previously.

I guessed that her emotional release had not been complete and predicted further upsets were abound so decided that now would be a good time to head home. I called to her sister, Lucy, that we would be leaving in five minutes and then explained to Penny we would be leaving soon and if she would like a quick play before we went she needed to do so now.

Having given up on her outburst she considered my proposal. She headed towards the play area slowly. She stopped at the entrance and looked at me, testing the limit to see if I had changed my mind about her shoes. I said, “You will need to take your shoes off to play in there.” She whinged but remained steady. She knew I would not change my mind on this limit and was weighing up the effectiveness of continuing the test. She took one more step inside and I repeated, “I won’t let you go in there with your shoes on.” She sat down and removed her shoes, seeking help when one got stuck.

She then made her way to where her sister was playing in the car whilst I collected her shoes and put them in the pram. Within 20 seconds I heard familiar shouts of anger and frustration. My children had come to blows. I looked over and saw Penny trying to push her way into the car whilst her sister remained steadfast in her seat.

They both screamed as they tried to assert themselves to each other. I moved over swiftly but calmly and used my arms and hands to block swipes and prevent pushes as I stated, “Lucy you are in the car and Penny wants to hop in with you. It seems like you are not finished yet.”

The screams escalated as Penny managed to manoeuvre herself onto the seat beside Lucy. I explained to the girls that if they couldn’t work it out we would need to go home now. The screams and pushes continued so I then said, “It seems too difficult for you to come to a solution so we will head home.”

With both children quite upset I made the decision to pick them up and take them to the pram. I placed Penny down whilst I buckled (a calming) Lucy in. Penny threw herself on the ground, where she resumed her earlier tantrum. I acknowledged, “I hear you are upset. We are going home now so I will place you in the pram.”

She fought me whilst I strapped her in and I continued to acknowledge, “You don’t want to be strapped in. You are having a really hard time and I need to get you home.” I ignored the stares of the onlookers and resisted the urge to give in to her request to walk. Given we had to walk the length of the shopping centre and through a car park, this would only result in further issues.

I pushed the pram with Penny screaming through the centre and out to the car park. Lucy was calm and collected so I helped her into her car seat first before pausing to decide how best to deal with Penny. I briefly thought about stopping and slowing down, giving Penny some time to get through her emotions before trying to put her in her seat. She’s a strong fighter and I knew how physically hard strapping her in would be with her being uncooperative. I decided against it.

While Lucy was currently ok, I knew her patience was not as resolved as mine and I could not expect her to sit in her seat indefinitely whilst I waited for Penny to come around. Besides, there was every chance that she would calm down only to be set off again once I required her to be in her seat.

So I steadied myself and moved confidently all the while talking Penny through the ordeal. “I am going to place you in your car seat now. I don’t want to hurt you so I will be as gentle as I can. I am picking you up now. You are not happy. I can hear how hard it is for you right now. I am placing you in your seat. You are very strong. I am going to hold you upright so I can buckle the straps. I’m sorry if this is hurting you. I am putting your arms through the straps. We are nearly done. You are all strapped in now. You are very upset and need to cry. It’s ok to cry as much as you need. I love you very much.”

I moved to kiss her little forehead but she let me know with a swinging arm that she did not want me close. That was ok and I backed off.

As I drove home I listened to her sobs as if each one was telling me a story of her tough day. This helped me listen with empathy and I never once felt so much as a pinch of anger or annoyance come over me. My little girl was hurting and I empathised. I drove the long way home, only turning towards our house once I heard her cries had diminished and an air of calm had come over her.

At home I unbuckled her and then asked if she would like a cuddle as I lifted her from her seat. I stated, “You were very upset. I could tell by your strong cries.” She wrapped her little arms around me and I held her tenderly as I felt her body relax in my arms. The skies had cleared. The release was over and she was once again unburdened of strong feelings. She was free to play peacefully for the rest of the day. Her tolerance and contentedness was remarkable in her interactions with her sister, her toys and my requests.

You might also like to read:

Coping With a Toddler Tantrum in a Stressful Situation ~ Kate Russell (Peaceful Parents, Confident Kids)

Testing Toddlers Crave Limits ~ Kate Russell (Peaceful Parents, Confident Kids)

No Ifs, Ands or Buts: Setting Limits With Empathy ~ Lisa Sunbury (Regarding Baby)

Setting Limits With Respect – What it Sounds Like (Podcast) ~ Janet Lansbury (Janet Lansbury – Elevating Childcare)

Testing Toddlers Crave Limits

Over the past couple of weeks my usually placid, youngest toddler has become more assertive, more demanding and generally more testing. Coincidentally we celebrated her second birthday last week. Does this mean we are in for a healthy dose of the terrible twos? Funnily enough, I don’t think so. I have written extensively on my eldest daughter’s testing behaviours over the past year here, here and here. We have certainly been put through our paces with her and have come a long way as a family and as parents since these early days.

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Coping With a Limit Tester

“Knowing when to give infants freedom and when to introduce limits is most important and is the backbone of RIE”  ~Magda Gerber

My two and a half year old is the ultimate limit tester. Her desire to be in control is so strong that it is quite rare to have her willingly cooperate for even the most simple of requests. ‘Lucy, in two minutes we are going to get dressed.’ ‘No, don’t want to!’ comes the reply. ‘It’s time to hop in the car, Lucy.’ Lucy responds by jumping on her trike and riding away down the footpath. ‘I won’t let you play with your food, Lucy’. Another forkful gets transferred into her drink cup.

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Respectful Parenting is Not Always Easiest

RIE parenting lesson

For some time now I have been going against my own instincts and the advice of many friends, families and experts and instead following the path of RIE parenting. I firmly believe that the studies Magda Gerber conducted late last century were insightful, accurate and most importantly helpful to parents wanting to treat their children respectfully. By choosing this method of child rearing, I am confident that my husband and I are empowering our children whilst building a long-lasting, trusting and loving relationship with them.

In saying this, it has not been an easy road. This form of parenting is deliberate. It’s thoughtful. It requires constant self-reflection, patience and trust. It takes a lot of energy and mental effort to challenge your own instincts and go against the only real experience you can draw on when parenting, your own parent’s methods. This coupled with the fact that many of the techniques and philosophies proposed by Magda are completely opposite to the mainstream advice given or demonstrated on a daily basis through friends, family, acquaintances, mother’s groups and experts, ensures that it is quite easy to be discouraged.

As I watch children being helped to play, made to share, stuck in time out, assisted to develop milestones and picked up suddenly without warning I often wonder why is it me that attracts strange looks and even judgements when I do things differently.  Every now and then, however, I get this little niggle of doubt creep over me. I sometimes look at my children and think, if I am doing things so respectfully; if I’m communicating with my children and acknowledging their feelings and trusting them to learn in their own way and in their own time, then why are they still screaming, using rough behaviour and throwing tantrums? In all the social circles I mix, I have only one or two friends who have joined me in parts on this RIE journey and it seems as though among all my other friends very few of them have trouble with their children testing limits, expressing extreme emotion or following instructions. This has had me seriously questioning the parenting path I have chosen and made me wonder if RIE was really the right choice for our highly spirited toddler in particular.

Then something occurred to me, I have read countless articles as well as comments from parents and experts in RIE circles who speak about their children taking longer to crawl, walk, talk, say please, thank you, hi and goodbye etc because they have been allowed to work through these developments at their own pace through supportive rather than expectant parenting. Part of the RIE philosophy is trusting that our children are capable beings and will develop the skills they need in their own pace and at their own time. By not showing them how to do things, sure, they may take a little longer but along the way they will develop vital other skills such as independence, perseverance and problem solving and once they have achieved their goal, they have done so much more completely and authentically than had they been pushed to do so through assistive techniques. So it got me wondering whether it is the same for behaviours as it is for developmental milestones?

My 2.5 year old was introduced to RIE parenting quite late in the piece and well after her younger sibling bounded into her world taking with her her former peaceful life where sharing wasn’t necessary, parents were at her beck and call and her life was content. She struggled significantly in those early days with extreme emotion, disruptive sleep and limit testing. This is what encouraged me to seek help and led to my discovery of RIE. Upon absorbing everything we possibly could about parenting respectfully, we noticed a distinct lack of punitive discipline. So for the past twelve months, the girls have had limits set through the use of natural consequences balanced with a respect for their autonomy. They have been trusted to sort through their sibling struggles in their own way and time through neutral sportscasting and again trust and they have been encouraged to express unpleasant emotions as and when they need to. When my husband and I made the conscious decision to adopt this style of discipline, it never occurred to us that we might still be dealing with some of these problems a year later.

When I look at other children and consider their politeness, their obedience and their lack of regularly expressed emotion I can’t help but wonder is it genetics? Were we always destined to parent strong-willed children or has it got something to do with the parenting style we have chosen. Now I know this doesn’t sound like a great plug for the parenting method I have been passionately blogging about for 7 months but when I stop to consider the alternative we had at the time, I have to trust that we have made the right choice. I know I could make my daughter stop taking toys from her sister by sending her to time out. I am sure she would no longer be rough towards her if I smacked her as a consequence a couple of times. Using fear as a way to change a child’s unwanted behaviour can certainly be effective in providing that outcome. I could send my daughter to her room every time she tantrumed or needed to express emotion and I’m sure after a time she would learn to kerb those emotions and keep them to herself. I could insist she says please before I hand her her food and take it away again if she refuses to say thank you. She would no doubt learn quickly to say these words that mean nothing to her but everything to society. I could certainly make our lives much more serene here by parenting in a more mainstream way and maybe my children would seem more respectful and obedient and probably happy on the surface but that’s not what we signed up for.

I have realised that trusting a child to learn right from wrong through limit setting and modelling, without the use of punishment, means accepting that they may need more time to internalise appropriate and acceptable behaviour. The mantra I repeat regularly when I need reassurance of this is that the difficult behaviours being displayed now are not going to exist when my children are 21 years old. In fact I often say this when I am questioned about not enforcing manners or greetings. I am confident of the fact that my 21 year old daughters will use appropriate manners and greet people as necessary. I know they will not scream and yell and throw themselves to the ground when they don’t get their own way and I am sure they will ‘play’ nicely with their friends too. I certainly hope they will achieve these things well before they are 21 but that is the age that I picture them setting sail from my parenting and casting off into their own lives. By then I should have done all I can to prepare them for all life will throw at them.

So I am going to ride out this difficult time. I am not going to resort to using punishments that whilst more effective and quicker in the short term, could threaten to undermine my child’s confidence or demolish our trusting relationship. I’m not going to insist my children stop crying or screaming just to keep the peace. I value emotional welfare and I have seen first hand the effects of stifling children’s emotions and not supporting them when they are at their most vulnerable. I am not going to enforce social niceties just so my children don’t seem rude to others. Both of my children often now say please, thank you and sorry of their own accord and it is so much more joyful to hear then had I insisted it be said because I know they mean it and are beginning to be guided through our modelling. As for the limit testing, well I am learning that my eldest toddler seeks to push the boundaries whenever she can see a crack. It is my job to close that crack before she is able to push her way through. As I close one crack, she inevitably finds another one but I will be there to ensure that she is kept safely from making it through each one.

For more reading on respectful parenting head to these wonderful sites:

Janet Lansbury – Elevating Childcare ~ http://www.janetlansbury.com/

Lisa Sunbury – Regarding Baby ~ http://www.regardingbaby.org/blog/

Dr Laura Markham – Aha Parenting ~ http://www.ahaparenting.com/_blog/parenting_blog

Changing Discipline Methods Brought me Closer to My Daughter

One of the most significant changes I have made in the way I parent is how I discipline my children. I thought ‘trusting my instincts’ was the way to go but I never stopped to consider how my instincts had been formed in the first place and so I went down a path of strict, ‘do-as-you’re-told’, authoritarian-type parenting only to crash head on into my 1 and a bit year old daughter.

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