Setting loving limits means simply you say ‘no‘ (as respectfully as you can), when a child’s request is unreasonable and/or you sense they’re asking for something as a sort of distraction when they have some pent up emotions. I have to use today’s example as a perfect case of how settling a loving limit would have prevented me from getting angry at my kids.
We were out all morning, swimming, in the sun and running around and suddenly, I realised I was HANGRY!! It was lunchtime, the kids were hungry, but they had been eating snacks, and I was super crazy hungry (breastfeeding does that to me).
We ate out at a shopping centre food court. I ordered our food and I didn’t want to spend any more money that what I had just spent. Then, while we were eating, the middle one complained the food was too spicy and she wanted something else. She had already eaten a little and there was DEFINITELY food there she could have had, like plain rice.
I said “No.” She complained. She kept fucking complaining. It was annoying. I wanted her to shut up so I could eat my food! I could feel a headache coming on because I hadn’t fed myself in time.
She wanted another sushi roll.
I didn’t want to spend the money.
She kept whining.
I said, “Fine, ok, just get another one.”
Then, the older one started complaining, “But, it’s nooooot faaaaaaiiiirrrrr!!!!” I want another sushi roll and she had more than me.” And, on and on. I was so annoyed. I finally gave in and bought her one too!
Now I was really mad. I was so angry. I had spent more money than I wanted to spend, because this week, money was especially tight. I got cranky with them and told them really stupid things, like, “We’re never coming back here again!!” (haha, not true, but I was so pissed, I couldn’t help it!)
I buckled them all in the car and drove off, me in a huff, they were silent. I was so angry!
As we kept driving, I realised that I wasn’t actually mad at them.
I was mad at myself!
If I had just told them ‘no‘ to more food straight away, then there would have never been a problem at all! Yes, they would have complained, but they could have eaten something more when we got home. They were not going to starve to death!!!
So, I didn’t set the loving limit, and then I was the one who got super duper angry.
Fast forward to after dinner. My middle one, again, was looking for sweets. I said, we don’t have any, and we have to go to bed, you already brushed your teeth. It was like, past book time, and I KNEW she wasn’t hungry. This is the tricky part, because you want to allow a child to have autonomy over her food, but when you can tell she’s requesting food because of pent up emotions, and it’s unreasonable, then to say ‘no‘ usually brings up some crying. And she did… she cried. A LOT. I still firmly and nicely said no. Afterwards, she fell to sleep. She had a restless first part of the night, talking in her sleep, etc. Her restlessness confirmed to me that she had pent up emotions, and she hadn’t just been ‘hungry‘.
When she woke up in the morning, she soon after asked if she could have her sweet now (a bowl of honey cheerios). The way she asked me, calmly and reasonably, not as if was the end of the world, told me that the pent up emotions/overstimulation was over. I said ‘Yes, go ahead!” and that was that.
There’s all sorts of reasons why we don’t set loving limits. At the shopping centre, I really just wanted to eat in peace, and I felt like if I bought them more food, they would leave me alone… So, buying them food was a short term solution that created a bigger problem later. Then, sometimes, we won’t set a loving limit because we don’t want our children to cry because the crying will trigger anxiety in us, or we don’t want them to cry in public, for fear of what others will think. There are so many reasons why!
I realised, that often when I DON’T set a loving limit, that’s when I end up getting angry at my children. For example, sometimes my toddler son will grab something that I know could break accidentally, but I don’t stop him because I know he’ll cry if I take it away. Then he breaks it or makes a mess, and then I get mad, but really I’m mad at myself for not stopping him in the first place!
It’s so hard! And, every day is different. Every day we’re learning. I wanted to share this story with you so that hopefully you won’t repeat the same thing! I feel very passionate about democratic parenting, so meeting the needs of EVERYONE in the family, not just my own needs and not just my children’s needs.
photo: Art Baltrotksy