Are you frustrated with your child not listening to you when you set a limit? 

You tell him once, and nothing happens, so you tell him again, and again until you find yourself nagging at your child. 

You probably end up feeling quite frustrated, unimportant, disrespected and not listened to while you also feel that your kid is getting away with things that he should not. Your child is most likely feeling annoyed, angry and stressed at the situation too. Plus the thing you asked your child to do does not get done, or you have to grudgingly do it yourself… EVERYONE loses in this scenario!

Let’s begin by understanding the child first. There is ALWAYS an underlying reason for behavior. No behavior happens in a vacuum, but is fueled by thoughts and emotions. 

I invite you to go deeper than just judging your child that “he is lazy” or “he is a bad kid” because he does not listen. This will not help you solve the problem or connect with your child in deeper and more meaningful ways.

Garry Landreththe developer of Child Centered Play Therapy, has an easy and effective way of setting limits with children in a way that connects with them emotionally which strengthens the parent-child relationship, AND gets the child to comply with your limit. 

This model is called the ACT Model. 

A = Acknowledge the feeling and what the child is doing or about to do. This lets the child know that you see them (connection) and acknowledges their desire. This is an important step as even though you don’t approve the behavior, you let the child know this is important to them. I sometimes emphasize this step by adding an adverb like “really”. 

  • Example a: “Johnny, I see that you really want to dump the flour on the floor!”
  • Example b: “Emily, I saw you pushed your little sister because she took your toy!”

C =  Communicate the Limit: In this step, you state the limit AND you can also state the purpose of an object i.e. “Your shoes are not to be thrown around, they are to be put neatly by the front door.”

  • Example a: “… but flour is not for dumping on the floor, it is for baking.” 
  • Example b: “…but your sister is not for pushing.”

T= Target Alternative: Since there is an emotional need behind each behavior, we want to make sure that the child’s needs are still met. If these emotional needs are stifled, they become like a dam behind which a lot of water collects until it breaks. 

For example, aggression, hitting and pushing is normal in young children so we get to teach children that hitting others it not okay. They still need to have their needs met by re-directing this normal aggressive behavior towards a toy, pillow or letting it out in roughhousing play. 

Many children with sensory processing challenges also have special needs that come out as inappropriate behavior. We can help them by allowing them to engage in similar activity in order to have the need met. I.e. a child who loves to jump on the couch all the time should have a trampoline. 

  • Example a: “If you want to dump something, we can go outside, and fill a bucket with sand that you can dump wherever you want! Would you like to do that before we continue baking?” 
  • Example b: “I see that you got really angry at your sister so why don’t we let your anger out by playing with the BoZo” (For kids who do this a lot, it is a good idea to a have a Bop Bag you can redirect them to)

I use this limit setting in my play therapy all the time, and it WORKS incredibly well. This truly is making every day moments, teachable moments where you guide your child towards appropriate and desired behaviors. Simply saying “NO!” or “DON’T” does not teach the child any new skill, and it is generally quite ineffective. 

Remember that learning a new skill takes a lot of practice, but luckily kids are so wonderful in providing plenty of teachable moments every day 🙂

I hope this supports you in bringing peace into your home and into your heart! 

Peace & Love,


P.S. I’d love to hear from you, so please don’t hesitate to email me to let me know how things are going. 

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