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Not All Behavior is Permissible


What is it?

Having done several listening practices, I need to address the naysayers. No, listening is not some 'soft' parenting thing that we do instead of actually getting things done and succeeding. Despite scientific proof that connection is a hard-wired need as well as the basis for cooperation, I understand the naysayers. I was one. So for you I offer this, thanks to Haim Ginott:

All Feelings are Permissible Not All Behavior is Permissible

The parent-child relationship is not a democracy; it is the parent who determines what behavior is permissible

In fact, setting clear, consistent boundaries is a resiliency builder (Henderson, 2017). And the way to do this is by clearly defining our principles, staying in our role as a parent, and sticking to the bottom line. Easier said than done.

How to Address It?

First, remember that it is a child's job to test limits. One way to practice is to think about what is important to you, plan a simple limit or household rule, respectfully notify your child in advance (I repeat: in advance), and then simply stick to it. But, you have to be prepared for your child to 'fail' and to be ok with that; that's how they learn. And, no hour-long dissertation in defense of the rule or limit when your child hasn't cooperated. Just stick to the plan.

Your Script in Action

Notify in Advance:

  1. When the table is set, I will serve dinner.

  2. When your teeth are brushed, we'll read a book.

  3. When your chores are done, you can watch TV.

  4. If you don't leave your phone downstairs at night, you will lose it the next day.

Follow through with Respect.

There is no need for 'I told you so' or anger. Let them make the choice.

  1. Pick a night when you don't have a tight schedule and you are willing to not serve dinner. When the table isn't set, sit down with a book. And wait.

  2. See #1.

  3. Simply turn the TV off. No need to explain.

  4. Follow through. Validate feelings when they are mad. Don't gloat!


Look for one opportunity today to try a very simple limit to support your principles. And commit to follow through and not engaging. Set the bar low and the habit will form faster because you’re setting yourself up to feel successful, and that’s the feeling that wires in the habit.

Click here to read my recent blog on my upcoming webinar: Press the Parenting Reset Button: from COVID to Calm.


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