The Best Way to Help our Children to Cooperate: Loving Limits

How do we support our children to cooperate, to be loving to their siblings, to help in the family, to respond to us with love and ease? Parenting feels so much easier when our children are behaving in these ways than when they are fighting with their siblings, refusing to cooperate, arguing and shouting. But how do we support them so that they are less likely to be having challenging behaviour?

From an Aware Parenting perspective, the most common cause of behaviour struggles with our children is pent up and unreleased stress and trauma. When our children are carrying around painful feelings, it is so much harder for them to be relaxed and happy and cooperative. So we can see their challenging behaviour as a red flag that they are waving at us, saying that they need our support and loving listening in order to offload these painful feelings and get back to balance.

One very effective way to support our children to do this is with Loving Limits. This is a term developed by Level 2 Aware Parenting Instructor Marion Rose. When we set Loving Limits with our children, we are lovingly saying a “no” to their behaviour and a loving “yes’ to welcome the expression of the feelings that are underneath that are causing the behaviour. The key is to be loving as we gently tell our children “I’m not willing for you to have any more chocolate now. I am right her and I am listening”. This allows our children to access the feelings that are driving them to eat chocolate, and any other feelings that are lying close to the surface, and to offload these feelings with our loving support and care. We use a warm tone of voice, we shine our love towards our children and we let them know that we understand that it’s hard for them and we care.

It’s important to understand that the limit is not going to make our children immediately stop the difficult or demanding behaviour and say “Ok mum, no worries I will stop that now”. But the limit is going to give them an edge or a boundary to come up against and allow the tears and anger to flow out.

We can set loving limits in all kinds of ways. Sometimes we might set a limit by limiting our own behaviour e.g. “I’m not willing to go to town today. I know you really want to go. I am here and I am listening”. Or we might set a limit around screens – “After this game finishes we are going to switch it off and do something else. I know you really want to keep playing. I am right here and listening”. Sometimes, if our child is being aggressive towards their sibling, we can set a limit by gently holding their hand so they can’t hit and saying “I’m not willing for you to hit John. I can see that you are upset and I am right here with you”. In all of these cases, what we are then doing is holding a safe space for our children to release feelings through tears. We are showing our children that we understand that things are hard for them and they are feeling upset and we are there to listen and support them.

With these limits and our loving listening to the feelings that then come up, our children quickly return to balance, to being cooperative and relaxed and to their true loving nature. Once the feelings that have been getting in the way of them being loving are released and lovingly heard, our children are free to be themselves, our relationship is strengthened further and they know they are unconditionally loved.

Aware Parenting with Joss

I am so passionate about sharing this beautiful approach with parents. I believe that Aware Parenting is THE solution for so many of the challenges facing the world. - Joss Goulden, Aware Parenting Instructor
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