I’ve been struggling to figure out the difference with my three kids since I started HIH a year and a half ago. I think I’m making progress but wanted to check in on the subject. It strikes me that my intention has a lot to do with it. My 6 year old son has a hard time settling down for bed once I’ve left. I know there’s fear there and we’ve been working on it in pieces. At times, he’s been aggressive at bedtime and that is improving. But the restlessness continues and often results in him out of bed playing with toys. So I’ve been telling him that if something is interfering with his ability to go to sleep, I’ll hold onto it until the morning. That feels like setting a limit to me. Usually that’s enough for him to settle down. When I have had to take a toy, he usually turns it over willingly. There are times he will have an upset too but then I stay listen and he can move on to bed. Is taking a toy away like this a limit?
You are doing some really good thinking about all this, good Mama! You are so right! Our INTENTION is often the distinction between a Limit and a punishment.
Do you have a Listening Partner? When we get a chance to offload our feelings about a certain situation during Listening Time, it can be easier for us to think clearly about what our intentions are. It is also easier for us to BRING a limit with warmth. If you don’t have an LP, there are lots of parents here who are eager to exchange Listening Time. We can help you set that up.
I do think that you could ‘take-away’ the take-away part of BRINGING this LIMIT. In other words, if he’s playing with toys, you come and put your hand on the toy and say, ‘it’s time to get back into bed, sweetie’. Then you STAYLISTEN.
Our approach to setting limits is NOT to make the behavior change immediately. Our INTENTION when BRINGING a Limit is to provide something for our child to bump up against so that they can release the feelings that are prohibiting them from thinking well, sleeping well, playing well, etc. In order to make this work, your child needs to feel the warm YES of “I’m right here” – as you BRING the nice warm ‘no’ it’s not time to play.
If you take the toy away, you’ve removed his opportunity to bump up against something and instead there is a CONSEQUENCE which creates more FEAR.
NOW….. I do think it’s good for us as leaders of our families to notice when there is an UNWORKABLE SITUATION. An obvious example is when we put a safety gate across stairs because we know that it is unworkable to tell our crawling baby or teetering toddler ‘not’ to go near the stairs. We know they can’t think about safety at that age, so we put a gate across the doorway.
Is it possible to put toys up or close toys up at night? Maybe having the toys accessible is unworkable. The truth is, he might use anything to distract himself when he’s feeling anxious. But, perhaps you could make a night time ritual of putting the toys to bed, too. Along with all of the rough/n/tumble PLAY you are doing so that he feels safe and connected.
This podcast that we did on Setting Limits can help as we do talk about what is and what is not Hand in Hand Limit Setting
I hope my thinking helps with your thinking around this. I’d love to know what you discover if you try just stopping the play instead of taking the toy away. Let us know how it goes.
Peace & Smiles,
Hand in Hand Certified Instructor
Conscious Child-raising Creating Cooperation and Peace
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“If we are to teach real peace in the world, we shall have to begin with children” – Gandhi