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You want a present, peaceful and playful family life? I'm here to help you make that a reality.

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How to Set Limits So Your Child Can Hear Them

Are You The “No” Lady? (or Gentleman?)

I know I sometimes am. When I suddenly stop and hear myself I can often count 11 no’s in the space of 29 seconds. Or something like that.

I know what you’re thinking: What, so now we’re not supposed to say “No”?! What happened to boundaries! Here’s why all kids today are as spoiled as the spilt milk they cry over! Entitlement! Indulging!

Hear me out. You can and should continue to set the right kind of limits, firmly, and kindly. But the word “NO” can often be perceived as aggressive and harsh – and even rude, when aimed at adults. Why the double standard?

And that’s the point I’m addressing today. Saying a simple “NO” is not usually our best bet with our friends, partners, colleagues… or children.

Setting limits is important in any healthy relationship, but in all our other relationships we go to great pains to soften the blow of “NO”. To explain it, to sand down the splinters and smooth over the edges.

Take a look at the inconsistency here:

“I’m sorry, I can’t work late today. But I’d be happy to take some extra work home on the weekend”. (to our boss)

“Awww, I wish I could! That sounds so nice… but we have plans.” (to our best friend)

“Honey, tonight I’m swamped but let’s do dinner tomorrow, OK?” (to our partner)

“NO!” (to our child)

Hearing a straight up “NO” (without caveats or explanations) brings out the rebel in all of us (see: “I’ll show you no screen time!”). Or even worse: it makes us feel worthless and unvalued… As though our wishes, needs and requests aren’t even worth a consideration. As though just asking isn’t OK.

But the good news is that in their book, No Drama Discipline, Dr. Tina Payne Bryson and Dr. Daniel Siegel have taught us the art of the “conditional yes”. Setting a “NO” limit, in effect, but in a positive, more palatable orientation. Finessing the art of the conditional “Yes” is what sets the peaceful parents apart from the power-strugglers. I know which I’d rather be, so I’m practicing!

It’s our job as peaceful parents to find the hidden “Yes” in every “No”. (Tweet it)

Here are the five ways to hold firm limits without the “NO”:

  1. Yes, in another time. “Yes, you can have candy… on Sunday!”
  2. Yes, in another place. “Yes, you can play with water… outside!”
  3. Yes, in fantasy. “Yes, I wish we could buy another teddy bear! I wish we could buy a million!”
  4. Yes, if… “Yes, I can play with you. If you give me five minutes first.”
  5. Yes, to the feeling “Yes, you really feel like having sugar right now! I know what that feels like!”

Will you try to say YES instead of NO? Then give a big YES in the comments!

If you want to learn more on know which limits to set, look into Empathic Limits.

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