n a group of somewhat seasoned HiH parents this would show flexible limit setting by making use of all the tools.
The first step in setting limits the HiH way for me was to get comfortable with the possible reaction of crying, tantrum and potential aggression.
Listening Partnerships have helped me to explore my own childhood experiences with limits and crying, so I have more awareness of my own triggers when I am in a situation.
Crying and tantrums would make me very nervous and agitated and it still does, now just less and I can better disregard these feelings as my own history and not applicable to my child.
After practicing Stay Listening and we experience the child to come out of the Limit followed by a Stay Listening session with a smiling, renewed self it becomes very encouraging to do this again. They don’t behave, I set a loving limit, then I stay listen, then sunshine. This instant gratification outcome can easily become a fave and go to intervention.
However, I had my fair share of deep and long emotional outbursts of my child ending with me creating a workaround of giving in because I could not listen anymore. At times I realized an erosion of safety and trust in our relationship, which made me search for the deeper nuances in using setting limits and stay listening in a better way. I realized that the child can feel overpowered and not heard during stay listening sessions, which leads to erosion of safety. This is my story of learning the deeper nuances of the transition from limits to stay listening and gaining more flexibility and variety in my responses.
The first important realization I had was that I needed to focus on listening and connection first.
HiH talks about Listen-Limit-Listen. But what does that first listen even mean?
My daughter (3) for example had asked for icy for breakfast.
I first tried to reason, explain and negotiate with her on the topic. Talking about nutritional values, habits, sugar etc. Giving healthy choices for breakfast etc. The usual modern parent attempts. I have to say, when my daughter is in a good place, I can explain the world to her and she will often listen and we can find common ground. If this however is not the case, I know there is an emotional unmet need. So in this example she insists on icy for breakfast.
I am getting frustrated and fearful. Fearful of her escalating and me having to listen. Do I have time and energy for this? And a voice in my head is waving an index finger and saying: Do not let her get away with this. She will want to eat icy every morning and she will walk all over you. You have to demand respect and show her who is in charge. - I hate this voice of outdated controlling parenting techniques that do not consider people’s feelings and needs. However this voice instills fear, guilt and shame and I need to acknowledge it to ensure it loses its power over my actions and responses. OK. so you are here too. Welcome to the club.
I realize and try to let go. Try to remain flexible and show empathy, try to continue to listen between the lines with her insistant voice.
I ask myself: Did I ever want to have icy for breakfast? Probably yes. Did I every have icy for breakfast? Probably yes. So I can show some compassion, which does not mean I have to give in.
My next lucky guess is that she might feel emotionally unsatisfied, in need of connection. If her underlying need is met she might forget about the icy and we can have a good time and then breakfast together.
So I scoop her up and declare her my icy princess. Run with her around the house, give her kisses and try to start a play that transitions the situation. This strategy often works but right now it does not. As I pick her up she immediately escalates into screaming and crying. I want Icy, icy, icy. I could have also tried to offer special time and discuss again after.
So now I find myself at a junction: Stay listen or giving in. It is very difficult to reach her at this point. Before I decide I listen to myself again: How flexible can I be? Can I stay listen? What are the time constraints? Other children?
If I decide that I can not listen, I might just give in today. Knowing that maybe tomorrow I am dealing with this again, but then I can prepare myself and be ready to listen to her more fully.
If I decide to give in, I could even say: OK. Let’s do some crazy stuff today and have icy for breakfast and maybe put underwear on our heads while we do this. Because this is declared our crazy morning.
We can explain the importance of healthy eating and habits at a time when she is able to hear me.
If I see that she really wants to offload stress by pushing against this limit, I will staylisten and be with her while she expresses her pain if I can.
I had this particular situation many times and have approached it in different ways - neither of them are wrong or rights. Often I realized afterward that my choice of action was not the best. We don't always find the perfect solution or have the ability to do what is needed. But, we are good parents - the best we can do is good enough.
Using the tools with flexibility gets easier over time. We can always explore our challenges in LIstening Partnerships. And we need to always remember it is about offering connection.
HiH means we choose connection over control.
Sometimes kids work through a lot of painful emotions by pushing against a limit and we need to listen a lot. If you find yourself listening a lot and supporting your child through an emotional project by staylistening please remember: Offer an equal amount of Special time or Play listening to Stay listening - possibly within 24 hours. This will help to maintain the balance of power and relationships of trust.
If you are unsure what to do in the situation always ask yourself: How can I offer connection right now?