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It’s grea that you are posting here about what you are trying and how it’s going. Thank you for adding support Chelsea. It’s so great to be learning this new language of parenting together as a community!
First, I hope that both of you have LISTENING PARTNERS. It may be very difficult to do what I am going to suggest unless you are getting some good Listening Time yourself. You can post here in the discussion board for a listening partner, or you can join the Parenting Club Facebook group to find a LP. You have to have a Listening Partner to use our Listening tools. http://www.handinhandparenting.org/2016/08/listen-launch-post-what-is-a-listening-partnership/
Secondly, what I am going to suggest is that you Set A Limit EARLY AND OFTEN So, Mika, when your son comes home, if the LIMIT you are setting is that you have to eat what’s left in your lunch, and he is not willing to eat what’s his lunch, the he is OFF-TRACK. He CAN’T THINK. When you give him a double-bind choice: “if you do this, then you can get this” ; that is only FRUSTRATING for the both of you. He can’t think. So he can’t think well enough to make such a choice.
I want to stop and caution you about expecting a child to be able to think around the subject of food – especially when they’ve been away from you for hours and have not eaten for hours. Two things have happened. 1) their blood sugar has dropped and when your blood sugar drops, your brain is STARVED for food and you CANNOT THINK. You can get off-track very, very easily. 2) Since he’s been away from you for HOURS, he is super duper DISCONNECTED.
In order for a child to be able to think, choose what to do, play well, etc. they have to feel SAFE AND CONNECTED. Your child has been away from you all day. 1) they don’t feel safe and connected. 2) their brain is starved for nutrients. It’s a recipe for disastrous off-track behavior: disconnection exacerbated by brain starvation
The SOLUTION is for you to 1) provide CONNECTION first thing – offer Special Time and/or rough n tumble play so that your kiddo feels connected. 2) SET A LIMIT: “sweetie, we’re going to finish what’s in your lunch box and have some turkey” (some kid of protein is crucial) BEFORE we go play.”
If you are willing and able to do this: FEED HIS CONNECTION and FEED HIS BODY, then I really believe that he will be able to move much more easily through the rest of his day.
Honestly, MIka, if you handle his connection and protein needs, I suspect it won’t get to the place of struggling over an object. He might have a huge upset when you set the limit about eating first, and that’s a very, very good thing.
The last thing I would say, is that IF, after you feed his body and his heart through a meal and some Special Time, IF he still asks for a toy or object that you don’t want him to have, then YES! You need to BRING THE LIMIT to your child. You need to put your body between them and the object. or you need to put your hand on the object as if you are going to put it away. Then you LISTEN to their huge feelings of upset. KNOWING that it’s not about the object. There is some hurt stuck in their emotional processing center and they need to POOP it out. So we LISTEN.
Here are some articles that can help
Special Time checklist: http://www.handinhandparenting.org/2014/11/make-special-time-child-checklist/
Setting Limits: http://www.handinhandparenting.org/article/setting-limits-with-young-children/
Setting Limits video http://www.handinhandparenting.org/2014/11/setting-limits-childs-unreasonable-behavior/
As for your last question about having to restrain him. My guess is that if you set a limit earlier, and feed his brain, it won’t get to this point. Again, if he is still off-track after he eats, the you can become silly and playful – again setting the very FIRST limit. But setting it PLAYFULLY. I think this podcast will give you some ideas on both setting limits early and setting them playfully http://www.handinhandparenting.org/article/what-to-do-when-your-child-just-wont-listen-replay/
This is our job – recognizing the very FIRST time that they CAN’T THINK and then setting the limit. Listening Time in our partnership will help with this.
You are such an awesome Mama – both of you. I look forward to hearing all the great ideas you figure out in Listening Partnerships because you ARE going to figure this out!
Peace & Smiles,
Hand in Hand Certified Instructor
Conscious Child-raising Creating Cooperation and Peace
Follow me on facebook: Parenting by Connection with Kathy
“If we are to teach real peace in the world, we shall have to begin with children” – Gandhi