Setting Limits, Boundaries & The Rules: Do not destroy/steal property and do not cause harm to yourself or others.

A friend came to me and had said that she doesn’t believe in children running the household and that she believed in family dynamics (in a response to my last post about following your child’s own self-led schedule) and so I kind of wanted to just talk about setting limits and boundaries within that child’s self-led schedule so that your child isn’t running the household. I also want to say that when I say that you should follow your child’s self-led schedule, that means that there is some basic structure, the difference is that it is not a forced schedule made by mommy or daddy. I know that USUALLY…Aubrey will nap between 12-2. Sometimes she will not. That doesn’t mean that we don’t have a routine or a schedule, it just means that it is not a set in stone thing but there are some basic structures there that have been set up by my toddler.

There are plenty of ways to set limits and boundaries while still following your toddler or babies own schedule. Their bodies naturally know when they need sleep and how much they need. We do not need to force it upon them or try to regulate it because they will do it all on their own naturally. For example, my daughter went to bed at 7pm last night but then woke up around 9:30pm and was up until her father and I went to bed at 11pm. She just wasn’t tired and wanted to be apart of all the fun. When she was tired, she came and laid next to me and went to sleep. Similar to when you walk away to make lunch and find your toddler passed out on the floor with a car toy in their hand (yes, some kids DO do this! Just not mine…)

When I had my daughter, I breastfed her on demand, based on her cues and I have continued to do that (until recently nearing the age of 3). We have now set limits. A lot of mothers do this so why should it be any other way for any other part of their lives? Setting a self-determined routine or schedule is a great thing for *some children (obviously not all…some have problems self-regulating, etc) and in that case you would guide them but still not MAKE them do anything they didn’t want to do. My biggest thing about forced schedules are that by trying to make your toddler do things they aren’t ready to do, you are upsetting yourself and your baby. You can of course, eventually make that baby listen to you and do what you want but it will take you “breaking” the desire to do otherwise. Sleep trained babies know after hours of crying and not being picked up that they will not be picked up and so they give up. They lose the “I know my mommy will come get me” mindset and find that they have no control over the situation. I have never been able to say okay, Aubrey…We’re going to bed now and her go to bed peacefully unless she was *ready* to go to bed.

Now, that I’ve said all that I want to say about that…you can of course, set limits and boundaries so that even though your child has their own schedule, they still understand that they need to do things or go places. If you are a working parent and your child has to go to school, you would peacefully and respectfully explain to your child that they have to go to school. If they child is upset about that, you would explain that you understand they are upset and give them ways to deal with those emotions. Then they would go to school. Now, if it were my child and everyday they expressed that they didn’t want to go to school and you could find means to stay at home with them and homeschool…I would do that.

The friend who had responded to the last post had said that,  “the baby or toddler cannot be in charge because then they would go into the world unable to react when they are forced to do things they don’t want to do like, get a job or deal with tasks at that job, or deal with government laws, etc.” My response to this is that, I am teaching my children that sometimes they have to do things but that trivial things such as what time they go to bed or how clean their rooms are, are not those things. They will learn responsibility of course, at an appropriate age. 2.5 years is not an appropriate age. I also hope, that I will teach my children that they always have a choice and are not forced to do anything they don’t want to do. Yes, we need to work but I hope in the future that I am able to provide for them in a way that they don’t have to jump into a job they hate because they need money and have to get out now.

As far as their being any issues with the limits that the law has set on all of us, this will not be an issue either. They will have no problem being decent and kind people (or abiding the laws.) Speeding for example is something everyone does even though it is against the law, we are not always punished for that but we do know the consequences if we get caught, again, if you get a ticket and you do not pay it, there are more consequences that you eventually have to deal with. There are no blurred lines here. It is straight forward and easily understood. My children will be given cars at the appropriate age and there will obviously be responsibilities that come with those cars, keeping them cleaned, keeping their maintenance up to date, etc. As they become older they will increase, paying for the car (if new), paying for car insurance, etc. If you don’t do these things there are natural consequences.

Here are 5 steps found here that can help you set limits and boundaries with your toddler:

“1) Begin with empathy and  trust.  Assume your toddler is doing the best she can do in any given situation, and is not just  trying to drive you crazy. Trust this: with your gentle guidance and some time, he can and will  learn to act in more positive ways.

2) Next, observe or notice what is happening, and simply narrate or state what you see or hear.

“You hit your sister, and she is crying.” “You are throwing  the sand.”  “You are throwing your food.” “You are screaming.”  “You are throwing your blocks.” “Ouch, you are biting me!”

3) Briefly explain why you want the behavior to stop.

“It hurts your sister when you hit her.” If you throw the sand it might get into someone’s eyes, and that hurts.”  “Food is for eating. It makes a big mess when you throw your food, and I don’t like it.” “It hurts my ears when you scream,” or “I can’t understand you when you scream.” ” Blocks are hard and it might hurt someone if you throw blocks at them.” “Biting hurts.”  Notice two things: Most of the time, you want or need to set a limit when your child’s actions might harm them or someone else. Also, it is perfectly acceptable to ask your child not to do something because you don’t like it- your feelings and needs matter. So if you find yourself getting upset because your child is making a big mess that you will have to clean up,  or you just can’t  bear to listen to another moment of screaming,  say so! Sometimes just drawing attention to the behavior and the reason it is inappropriate is enough to stop the unwanted behavior (at least in the moment).

4) Set the limit, while demonstrating the desired behavior or offering an alternative, if possible.

“I won’t let you hit your sister. Please touch her gently.” ( Say this while stroking both children gently.) “If you want to hit, you can hit this doll (or the floor, or these pillows).” “Please keep the sand low in the sandbox” ( demonstrate). ” If you can’t remember to keep the sand low, I’m going to ask you to leave the sandbox.” When you throw your food, that tells me that you’re done eating. If you still want to eat, please keep your food on the table or I will put it away (or ask you to get down).”  “Please don’t scream. I want to understand, and I can’t when you’re screaming. Can you show me (or, tell me  using your regular voice) what you want?”  or “If you want to scream, I will ask you to go in the other room (or outside).”  “If you want to throw something (or play catch) let’s go find a ball. Balls are for throwing. If you keep throwing the blocks I will put them away for today.”  “No biting!” ( Say this firmly, while putting your child down.)  I will move away if you are going to bite me. If you want to bite, you may bite this teether.”

5) Follow through with the limits each and every time (consistency). This is very important.

When you set a limit your child may resist, or express some angry or sad feelings. This is perfectly natural, and fine. Accept, name and acknowledge your child’s feelings, but calmly hold firm to the limit. Your child is entitled to express and have her feelings heard, but that doesn’t mean you have to meet her anger with anger, agree with her, or give in to him.

Help your child if necessary. Stay nearby and supervise closely if your child is prone to hitting his sister. “You are having a hard time remembering to keep the sand low in the box, so I’m going to ask you to leave the sandbox now. Can you do it yourself, or would you like some help?” “You are still throwing your food. I’m going to put it away now.” (You can also hand your toddler a cloth and ask her to help you clean up the  food that was dropped.) “You are still screaming. I’m going to ask you to go get all your screams out in the next room,” or “I can’t help you when you’re screaming.” “I’m going to put these hard toys away, and you can play with these balls and stuffed animals.” (In some cases, it may be necessary or helpful to make changes in your environment or routine that will make it easier for your child to remember and cooperate with the limits. For instance, it may be helpful to put away hard toys for awhile if your child is intent on throwing everything. Maybe providing a gated, safe play area for the baby will protect her from her brother when you can’t be right there to intervene. Maybe changes in the morning routine are needed to make it a less rushed, stressful time, or you can put aside some  special toys that come out just in the morning for your toddler to play with.)”

You can also find more here…I hope that this post is helpful and maybe explains a little better what I am trying to say in the last post as well. Sometimes explaining things is hard for me and I may or may not portray what I mean in the best of ways. Let me know if these steps or any other steps work for you guys! I am currently just starting to try and be more pro-active with my daughter in setting these boundaries and limits in a way that is more peaceful. I have been more overwhelmed and flustered with what I need to do and what I actually do lately and a lot of these steps have been helping me 🙂


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