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Setting Limits With Children

And sticking to them

Setting Limits With Children

I often ask myself as a parent: How much is enough?

Kids, as any parent, teacher or coach knows, will test you. They’ll ask for more and more and more. And they’ll take more and more and more if you give it to them.

Sometimes, it’s easier to just give them what they want than to stand your ground. Especially when you’re tired.

But if you don’t want to raise a spoiled brat — and I don’t — that’s no solution.

Our 3-year-old daughter has gotten into the habit of asking for a snack right before bed. It’s like Pavlov’s dog: “It’s time for bed,” I say. “Mom, can I have a snack,” she says.

In the beginning, I’d sometimes think: Well, she didn’t eat that much for dinner, maybe she is hungry.

But now — especially when we’ve just eaten dinner in the last hour or so — I don’t fall for it. Enough is enough. 

I’m not sure what started this bedtime snack obsession, but I’m not fond of it. When it’s bedtime, I want her to go straight to bed. 

Often, she’ll fuss and cry and whine and tell me how hungry she is. I’ll tell her firmly that she’s not getting a snack and to pick out a book to read. That doesn’t always work. 

My husband is the master of distraction and often gets her to think of other things besides a snack. I’m pretty good at it, but he’s the best.

So the other night, when she was pleading for a snack, acting as if she hadn’t eaten in days, my husband told her he would get her a glass of water. She said OK but continued to fuss.

When he returned with the water, he had a doll in his hand. He told Julia that Lila was crying downstairs and wanted to sleep with her. Instantly, Julia stopped fussing. Like a light switch turned off.

Today is her birthday, and we celebrated over the weekend. I asked friends not to bring gifts. Julia is fortunate, and she has so much already. Besides, right now, she’s young enough not to expect presents at her birthday. Having friends over for games, cake and ice cream is really what’s important and makes her happy. That’s enough.

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