Are You Making A Request or Setting A Limit?
Are you setting a limit or making a request?
If there is a higher tone at the end of the sentence then it is heard as a request.
If you ask "Is that OK?" at the end of the sentence then it is heard as a request.
If you are attached to a specific outcome it is a limit.
Let me tell you a story.
Mother asks her child "Sarah, aren't you cold?"
The child says "No" and carries on playing.
The mother then states "It's a cold day, are you sure you don't want a coat?"
The child says "No thank you" and carries on playing.
Mother starting to get frustrated says in an unconfident tone "I really would like you to put your coat on?" The child carries on playing.
This goes on until the Mother ends up putting the jumper on the child. The child is left confused and feeling the mother has not listened to her clear "No" and the parent is frustrated.
Toddlers especially need clarity. They need to know what it is you are wanting. You could just say "Sarah, I see you are enjoying playing, to keep you from getting a cold I'm going to put a coat on you." (Confidently, calmly, with eye contact). If your toddler is in the middle of playing, perhaps you can wait or offer notice. Perhaps you can offer a choice of layers. Remember also the importance of doing WITH not doing TO. Go slowly, talk through each stage, with your toddler's involvement: "Could you put your arm in here please?" Pause, wait for a response etc.
I feel a lot of resistance to the term "setting limits", after all our role as parents is to enable not to disable our children. I'm an advocate of freedom, free expression, free play etc. If it's not an issue of health or safety, ask yourself: Is there room to enable what it is your child is saying "yes" to, either now or in the near future?
Obviously, as your child's dialogue develops into full sentences there is often much more of a negotiation to be had. Ultimately communicating together to enable both of your needs.
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