delivering limits with a spoonful of sugar

Today's communication tip arrives
cloaked in song from Mary Poppins:
a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine
go down.

Pharmaceutical companies have you
covered on the actual medicine ... they
can make even the nastiest stuff taste like
bubble gum these days!

So I'll talk about another kind of medicine:
limits and boundaries. Parents need to
help kids learn what's okay to do and
what isn't. Children are not pre-wired with
the knowledge of what is acceptable
behavior in the culture they were born
into. Instead they are wired to watch and
learn from their parents. This information
is much easier for kids to absorb and
incorporate when it is delivered with

What do I mean by sweetness?

A warm, respectful tone of voice

Eye contact

Close proximity (as opposed to
yelling from across the room)

Gentle guiding touch if appropriate

Keep it brief and phrased in the positive

Here's how sweetness looks and sounds:

For a young child smacking the dog --
Move in close, catch the child's hand
gently, and look in his eyes while saying,
"Dogs get hurt when we hit them, so let's
hit the couch instead because it doesn't
have feelings."
Guide his hand to the
couch and then playfully join him in
some cushion whacking.

For an older child -- Grab the broom, set the
dustpan near your child, and say, "Let's get
our chores done before dinner so we can
ride our bikes after."
Then start sweeping.

For a teen -- While you are at the wheel
obeying the speed limit, and she's the only
passenger in the car with you (not in front of
her friends, please!) say, "Driving slowly in
residential areas gives us time to stop if a
child impulsively runs into the street."

As an added bonus, that sweetness you
give your child makes you feel better, too.

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