Welcome to Educated, Common Sense Parenting! This is my parenting education/commentary blog. Start here and read About This Blog.

I believe too many parents today have let their children rule their households. Their children dictate their daily lives, demand every ounce of their attention and do not show any respect for their parents. This needs to change. The only way to do this is if parents start letting good old common sense start dictating their parenting practices and stop letting their children run the show. You're the parent. Act like one.

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Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Setting Limits Part III: The Process

The reason I like Setting Limits so much is because it's not really a "magic system"...it's really just common sense. Here are the steps I recommend you take to implement this common-sense process with your child:

1) DECIDE ON A TARGET BEHAVIOR: Decide on your top one or two "annoying" behaviors and focus on those. Remember, Rome wasn't built in a day, so don't expect your child to reverse every annoying behavior right away. Most parents' top "annoying" behaviors include: 1) Whining 2) Not listening/ignoring instructions; purposely misbehaving 3) Inability to share or play well with other children 4) Tantrums/Pouting when they don't get their way.

2) LOGICAL CONSEQUENCES: Decide on what your "logical consequence" for the behavior will be. A logical consequence is a consequence that fits the crime. Too often parents let misbehavior go and by the time 5pm rolls around and your child has been misbehaving all day, parents lose it. The kid does one minor misbehavior and Mom takes away TV privileges for a week or explodes and makes him stay in his room for an hour. Those consequences are not driven by logic, they are driven by emotion.

**Remember, what I write only applies to what I know and things I have tried. So my only knowledge is with 18 months to 4 year olds. With that in mind, most misbehavior can be solved with the logical consequence of a time out. We started time out with Brooke at about 18 months. At this age we thought she was old enough to understand right from wrong and she was also mature enough to understand consequences. Some 18 months olds are not--you have to judge for yourself. But somewhere around this age, you can start implementing time out. More on the timeout procedure later.


- Younger Kids (18 months-3'ish years): As soon as misbehavior occurs (not after it's happened for the 50th time that day and you're frustrated and tired), give ONE, SIMPLE warning. Something like, "Michael, we don't whine. It's not nice. Stop whining or you'll go to timeout (or, "you'll be spending some time alone")." For little kids, keep it simple, very few words.

- Older kids (3 years & up): Once kids get older, empower them to realize that they have the power to make their own decisions: "Michael, you know we don't whine. You can keep whining or you can spend some time by yourself...WHAT DO YOU WANT TO DO?" Those words are key. That makes them actually have to answer, which is quite powerful. When I phrase things like this, I feel like it's kind of an "ah-ha" moment for Brooke. Like she's thinking, "DUH--I don't want to be alone or go to timeout!!!" For your strong-willed ones, if they don't answer that is the same as continuing the behavior. See Step 4.


**Use your NORMAL tone of voice. Be calm, but firm. Look your child in the eye.

4) FOLLOW THROUGH: This is THE most important step!! This is where most parents fail miserably. After you have given the warning with the logical consequence, you MUST MUST MUST follow through the VERY next time it happens. So your kid is yelling, you give the warning, he keeps yelling (Remember, he's your little scientist! He's gathering his data!). TOOOOOOOOOO many parents (I have been a victim) keep up with the warnings: "Michael, I TOLD you to STOP YELLING!" Again: "Do you want to go to timeout??" Again: "How many times do I have to tell you!!??" With each warning, our blood pressure rises. This is why many parents are frazzled and burned out. They have spent their whole day threatening their kid and never actually disciplining them.

So what SHOULD you do? Misbehavior happens again. You say, "Ok, I'm sorry. We don't whine. You need to spend some time in timeout." Take him to timeout and say, "You need to stay here until I tell you to get up. I will set the timer." AND SET THE TIMER. I use the tried and true rule of one minute per year of age. I use the timer on my microwave so Brooke can hear it from her timeout and know when time is up. DON'T CHEAT and don't try to "guess" when X minutes has passed. Use a timer!!!

5) CLEAN THE SLATE: When the timer goes off, go to your child. Resist any temptation to over-explain or "lecture." By now, they know what they did was wrong and that you won't accept it. End of story. Hopefully, your child's time in timeout has given you time to compose yourself as well. Please don't hold a grudge!! Many parents like to say things like, "Next time you do that, you'll be there for 20 minutes!" or "I don't know how many times I have to tell you!" Not very educated, common sense parenting'ish. The slate is clean and welcome your child back to whatever you were doing. Keep your words simple like, "Ok, it looks like you're ready to come back! Let's finish playing that game!" Keep your tone of voice upbeat. Take your child's hand and lead them back. Let them know you're not "mad" at them.

And that, my friends is all there is to it. Sounds pretty easy, huh? It IS. If you stay consistent with this process, I can almost guarantee behavior will improve. The hard part is staying consistent. You can't let X behavior (i.e whining) slide one day and then crack down with "Setting Limits" the next. Talk about confusing your child! No wonder he acts out. You need to do the procedure EVERY TIME behavior occurs.

Yes, there are some problems that may occur and some troubleshooting that needs to happen. I'll write a "Troubleshooting" post soon. Happy limit setting!!!


  1. What a cool blog! Keep it up! I need it :) And, I would love to follow your family blog, if you want to invite me. My email is:
    chadandcin@mvdsl.com. I sure enjoy Trish's. I feel like I know little Kate, and I've never even met her. Hopefully some day we'll all meet up at the lake...

  2. Um, Cinnamon--for the record, it is YOU that I need advice from! Seriously, girl I have no clue how you do it!!! XXXOO

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