Create an environment where your child can predict what happens and how you will react
- You must remember that, as the parent, you are in charge and only you can decide what limits work for your family. But having decided what limits work you need to remain consistent at all times. Children feel secure when you establish routines and enforce reasonable and consistent limits. It is confusing for your child when you allow something one day and not the next.
Connect your child to the limits by remaining consistent at all times
Have consistent routines that help your child know what to expect
- Many problems can be prevented by having consistent routines, which allow for regular sleep times, regular meals, and time together with opportunities to let off steam and play outside.
- Switching from one activity to another can be challenging for young children so it is helpful to create some rituals that help your child to predict what is going to happen next. For example. getting the shopping bags out signals that you are getting ready to leave the house and go shopping, or taking the school bag from the peg signals that it is time to leave for nursery. Reading a story after bath-time signals bed-time. These actions help your child know what is going to happen next and reduces conflict.
Let your child know you mean it
- A child under three is not able to reason about things and wants what she wants. She can't think about what is safe or appropriate, so it is up to you to maintain the limits. Children need to feel safe and secure at this age. They can tell when you are serious about limits. They need to feel that you will take control when necessary by stopping them running across the road or running of in the supermarket. Dangerous behaviour requires firm action from you: 'I am going to pick you up and we are going home.' When children know you mean it they respond. It helps when you understand that your child needs to test limits to find out whether they are firm and that it is your task to make sure that they remain so even though your child may be protesting.
- Setting limits and maintaining them can be hard at times. Sometimes when we are tired or we are out in public and we don't want to have an embarrassing scene it seems easier to give in. But in the end it is your capacity to be firm and consistent that will pay off. The more consistent you are the more quickly your child will adapt to your family's limits. Every time you compromise or let your child have his own way because it seems easier you will signal to your child that all limits are negotiable. When your young child feels that limits are negotiable you will find yourself in the constant position of negotiating and unfortunately the young child's negotiation skills usually centre around crying and throwing a tantrum!