Have you ever found yourself in a parenting situation where your child just HAS to do something and there really is no other option?

Like maybe for health reasons, your child needs to get an uncomfortable medical procedure done, or take a medication, or get a shot…

Maybe for safety reasons, your child has to wear a seatbelt, sit in their car seat, or use a bike helmet…

Maybe your child has to go to school, so you can get to work…

In each of these situations it can be hard–maybe even impossible–to find a win-win solution.

So what can you do?

The first step in a situation–where there is no choice–is to figure out where there IS choice or flexibility.

This sounds paradoxical but stick with us here.

Example #1

Your child doesn’t want to use a seat belt/car seat in the car. But for safety, you insist that they buckle up. You have flexibility in the situation, while still setting a limit. You can offer your child a few of these choices…

  • How your children get to the car… do they run, skip, jump, get a piggyback ride, or do you race to the car?
  • What toys they play with in the car… a book, stuffed animal, action figure, or doll?
  • What music they listen to, what song they sing, what they talk about, or what show they watch during the drive?
  • Do they get in the car seat all by themselves, or do you help them?
  • Do they buckle the seat belt by themselves, or do you help them?

Example #2

Your teen is engaging in some unhealthy or harmful behavior. What choices can you offer while still setting a limit?

  • Offer alternatives… “I know you are feeling anxious and you’d like to drink/smoke to feel better. I’m not okay with that, but we can do something together, you can go for a walk, watch a show, go to the grocery store, or get some food. ”
  • Discuss different coping techniques… “What healthy things have you done in the past that have helped when you’ve felt like this?” OR “I’m not willing for you to drink at that party, but I am willing to get your favorite soda or to make ‘mock-tails’. It’s okay for you to invite a friend, keep your dog close by, or retreat to the back room if you get overwhelmed.”
  • Explain why you have a limit… “I know it feels uncomfortable for me to search your phone. I’m trying to keep you safe. Would you like for me to search your phone when you are present or when you’re not around?”

Example #3

Your child wants ice cream, but right now isn’t a good time for it.

Is there a way to say “yes” to your child by changing the conditions… “I’m not willing for you to have ice cream right now but…

  • “I’m willing for you to have some tomorrow.”
  • “I’m willing for you to have a healthy treat right now. Would you like popcorn or frozen grapes?”
  • “I’m willing for you to have ice cream after dinner.”

Want some more ideas for limit setting with flexibility? Put it in the comments section. We read each one.

If, after reading the blog today, you’re interested in stuff like this WITH me… here’s how you join the Village.

You and I can personally talk in there if you’re struggling to figure out how to talk to your child.