“When you hold your baby in your arms the first time, and you think of all the things you can say and do to influence him, it’s a tremendous responsibility. What you do with him can influence not only him, but everyone he meets, and not for a day or a month or a year but for time and eternity.”
~~ Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy
The Raised with Love and Limits Foundation supports the new public health movement of preventing toxic stress in children’s lives to improve their health, learning and behavior by helping parents and caregivers manage children’s common behavioral issues through evidence-based strategies that develop consistent, caring, supportive and protective relationships with children.
Parents are their parenting “team captains”, so they are justified in respectfully helping everyone on their parenting team (babysitters, grandparents, childcare providers, teachers and more) understand that they use “love and limits” words and actions to teach appropriate behavior and foster positive relationships.
So we encourage parents to have frequent respectful discussions with everyone on their parenting team about why they want them to use “love and limits” words and actions when teaching their kiddos—to give them the best chances for success in school, and good health and behavior. This will let the whole team give children consistent messages about discipline rules designed to solve behavioral problems and build positive, loving relationships.
When the Rules Change
But it is also important to note that while parenting teammates may be happy to discipline a child with love and limits, some rules may change when a child goes to “play games” away from home—meaning when a child spends the day or night at different places.
For example, the eating rules may be different at the child’s home and the daycare home—or at one Grandma and Grandpa’s house and the other grandparents’ apartment. So when those rules change—for example, when Grandma wants a child to stay up past her bedtime that she has at home—what are the parents’ choices in response?
First, it’s important to stay cool and calm, not get angry and upset. A parent can tell herself, “My child understands that the rules may be different at Grandma Perkins’s house—and that’s okay.” Children are capable of understanding and following different rules in different settings. After all, home rules and school rules are usually different, and children understand and abide by both as long as they have been taught that rules are important.
Ultimately, a parent needs to remember that she is the final decision maker. So if you’re the mother or father, evaluate the difference between the rules at your house and at your child’s Grandma’s house or daycare, for example, and decide whether it is important to respectfully work with Grandma or the daycare provider to change their rules or not.
The One Exception
On the other hand, rules about using violence—shouting, slapping, hitting, spanking, swatting, yelling, swearing, or doing anything else that could physically or emotionally harm your child—are NOT negotiable. For example, if your child’s babysitter says that your child needs to be slapped because she has a sassy mouth, it’s important to let that babysitter know that it is harmful to use any kind of violence in managing children’s behavior. Let her know that your rule is to discipline without yelling or spanking—ever.
The most important research we have explored concerns the impact of toxic stress on your child’s brain. By toxic stress, researchers mean the overwhelming reaction that comes when a child is presented with a terrifying event, such as violence in any form. The sequence of the stress response is as follows:
- The child witnesses or is threatened with violence.
- He perceives this action as dangerous, arousing the fear part of the brain.
- His body and brain reacts to the danger with a fight-or-flight response,
- The fight-or-flight response causes his blood pressure to increase, his heart rate to go up, and his stress hormones (eg., cortisol) to increase. This stress reaction also causes other physical changes—including irreversible changes to his brain. It has been shown that children who grow up in stressful environments—including environments in which they are spanked—generally find it harder to concentrate, sit still, rebound from disappointment, and follow directions. And above all, they find it harder to self-regulate, that is, to exercise self-control. So follow the science and join us in helping you keep your child’s stress level out of the toxic range by using our loving limits approach to raising your child.