Frequently Asked Questions about Setting Limits

My child never wants to go home

I love to go and visit my friend so that my child can play with her child but I dread going home time because my daughter never wants to leave and we always end up with her crying and me having to pick her up and carry her out. How can I help her to understand that play-dates have to end sometimes and avoid these unpleasant and tiresome scenes?

These are just the transitions that it is difficult for young children to manage. The solution lies in helping her to understand what is going to happen. Let her know fifteen minutes before you are leaving so she knows what is coming. When the time comes, say, 'It's time to go now. We'll see your friend another time.' If she doesn't want to leave, offer a choice: 'Do you want to walk to the car or shall I carry you?' or 'Would you like to hold my hand or carry the bag?' She may not have enough self-control to do as you ask and it can take time for a young child to process a request and to do what you are asking so do not expect an immediate response. Still, after allowing reasonable processing time, if she does not respond, then it's time to pick her up, say your goodbyes, and leave. Children under three understand actions more than words. It is a mistake to negotiate more time with her. When you negotiate once it gives her the expectation that you will do it again and this is the kind of thing that can set up a stand off between you and your child.

My child can't play with other children

My child does not know how to play with other children and it always end in tears when we have a friend to play. How do I manage this situation?

You have to set a model for playing with other children. For example, if she is throwing sand while playing with a friend in the sandbox show her how to use the sifter and the sand toys and support what you are doing with words like 'Sand is for playing. It hurts if we get it in our eyes'. If she throws sand again, remove her from the sandbox to another activity like watering the flowers. If she is tearful and can't be distracted, remove her from the situation. As adults, we know when we need to go for a walk or be alone to 'cool off'. Children don't know how to do this, so they need our help. Offer your listening, your love, and your attention while she may cry to release her feelings. When your child has finished crying, she has shed an emotional load off her shoulders. You have accepted her feelings yet been firm about the limit.