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Your child will jump on the couch for the 50th time after you’ve repeatedly asked them not to. If you ask them to stop again, just look you in the eyes as they keep jumping and almost dare you do it.

Your child asks you for sweets just before bed and you say “no”. Your child kicks you. Or they want to play with sticks as swords. You agree to play with them for 30 minutes before sitting down with a book for a period of self-care. You will gently remember about it halfway through and then 5 minutes before the half hour is up, but when it comes to reading time your child will throw the stick at you anyway.

When our children show us their worst behavior, our instinct is to be in control. If they can’t even meet basic requirements, such as B. not kicking or throwing things at you, it is surely because we are too revealing. And the way to be less revealing is to set more boundaries.

But what if putting more boundaries actually makes the problem worse?

Illustration for article titled Improve Your Child's Behavior by Setting Less Boundaries

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You have probably already set a lot more limits than you need to

When I work with parents who are frustrated, upset, and exhausted about their child’s behavior, one of the first things we do is consider the boundaries they set – and they’re almost universally shocked to see how often they do do it. Sometimes every third thing they say starts with the word “not” or contains the word “no”.

Actually, Find psychologists that many adults have extremely negative associations with the word “no”, associate it with their parents’ discipline at a young age, or punish a dog. You can test this: tell someone (a partner, colleague, etc.) that you are going to say ten words, then ask how they are feeling. Then you say “No. No. No. No. No. No. No. “Now ask how they are feeling. Then say” yes “ten times and ask again. Chances are the nos will make you feel emptied, depressed, or sad , while the Yeses make you feel uplifted, invited, or welcomed (you can try this on yourself, but the effect may be weakened knowing what we’re looking for)

All of these “no” ultimately set the tone for our relationships with our children. And most of us don’t want that tone to be this negative, but what choice do we have if our kids don’t even work together on the basics?

Illustration for article titled Improve Your Child's Behavior by Setting Less Boundaries

Set fewer boundaries based on your values

Most of the time, when we set boundaries, they are not really based on our values. We just look for our child’s cooperation and set a limit in the hope that this time they will magically comply without a fight. But this approach hasn’t worked in the last 50,938 times we’ve tried it. Why should it work this time?

What we can do instead is set far fewer limits and when we do, set limits that are firmly anchored in our values. If we drastically reduce the number of thresholds we set, we are effectively giving much less “no”, and you probably already know the effect that it has: it draws people to us and makes them work with us. And when they feel like we are leaving our eternal “fight” mode, they don’t have to be in their eternal “fight” mode. You will want to cooperate.

Setting fewer boundaries does not mean that the children rule the neighborhood. We just choose the boundaries that are better based on our values. Most of the time when we set boundaries it is about behaviors that are not new. It is repeated behavior patterns that keep irritating us. Instead of dealing with these things spontaneously, we can plan ahead. Is it something that is really (really) important to us? If so, we’ll set a limit on that.

Just because we set fewer boundaries doesn’t mean we let the children rule the neighborhood. We just choose the boundaries that are better based on our values.

But if it’s something that we can say isn’t really based on our values ​​- but we just find it a little annoying – we can probably find a way our child can make a version of it without it drives us up the wall.

Make a strange noise right next to us? “You are welcome to make this noise – in another room.” Jump on the (old) sofa? “The sofa could break if you jump on it. you can jump on my bed if you want. “Throw things in? “Let’s go outside and throw a ball!”

When we combine setting fewer boundaries and sticking very tight to the boundaries that are really important to us, then the magic happens. Our children not only test everything, they also want to work with us. That’s because they see that we are invested in the relationship and that they want to invest in it too.

And then we find that setting fewer limits is one of the most important keys to better behavior – no permissibility required.

Jen Lumanlan is the host of the Your Parenting Mojo Podcast, which integrates scientific research on parenting and child development into tools that parents can use to make decisions about how to raise their children. It also houses the Setting the workshop for loving (and effective!) Boundaries, a free, five-day short exercise program that helps parents set fewer boundaries than they ever thought possible – and dramatically improve their relationship with their child.