Setting limits in a way that helps to solve a problem rather than create a problem is tough. To be clear, I’m not talking about stopping kids running out in the road sort of a limit. I’m talking about behaviours such as winding people up, nasty comments and being demanding.
Poor behaviour = poor feelings
Traditional approaches would have us send these children away without any idea of why they are behaving this way. But if we see behaviour as a message. Poor behaviour =poor feelings , we can deal with it a different way.
Setting limits does not have been done by pulling out a military tone and thinly disguised annoyance. Look the child in the eyes, or Let them know that you are close (oh you have to be close – shouting across the room definitely doesn’t work!) and state calmly that they are not to … Then (this is the science bit!) ask them what is mkaing them feel so bad.
You may be surprised at what you get!
If they are really angry you may get a bit more of that but I usually repeat that some thing must be making them feel really bad to be so angry would they like a hug? Or a ride on my back where I try and buck them off (using physical play to help disperse the physiological affects of getting angry).
You may get tears. Crying is a natural response to dealing with stress. Children need to have opportunities to cry where they know they will not be told off or shouted at for crying. Where you just listen. No solutions or quick fixes. Just listening and reassurance.
Why do do they do this?
All of us have our own ways of dealing with the stresses of daily life (glass of wine, sport etc) we also know where we can go if we need a good cry or scream. Children have the same needs but not the same tools. They will show they are stressed through their behaviour. They will get your attention – any way they can.
This is because you as their parent are the person that they look to to create a safe environment for them to feel better. You did it when they were a baby. They cried and you held them and comforted them. It is more complicated as they get older and the demands on them are not under your control. But they will let you know. Set that limit and then see what they really need.