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One of the big challenges of parenting is knowing when to set limits on a child's behavior and what limits to set. This challenge becomes much easier when you look at limit setting in terms of your intent.

Children, like the rest of us, do not like to be controlled. You probably can manage to find ways to control younger children, but what are the consequences? One likely consequence is that, while your child may comply in one area, he or she will probably learn to make you crazy by resisting in other areas.

Another likely consequence is that your child is learning from you how to be controlling, and may use your controlling tactics - yelling, blaming, hitting, threatening, guilting - on younger siblings or other children. You are the role model. Do you really want to be teaching these behaviors to your children? What if your intention were to take loving care of yourself rather than control your children?

For example Sara, who is 12 years old, had been mouthing off to her teacher at school. Her mother, Isabel, kept getting warnings from the school. But the warnings were not working. Sara kept being rude to her teacher, thinking it was funny. Isabel, upset and drained, decided to take care of herself. She knew that Sara was saving up for a new bike and didn't want to have to part with the money she got for Christmas. "Sara," said Isabel, "I'm really tired and upset about hearing about your rudeness to your teacher. I will start to charging you for your rudeness.

The next time you receive a warning, you will be charged $20 dollars." Sara screamed and yelled about this and finally calmed down. Two days later Sara mouthed off again. "$20 please," said Isabel. "But mom, I'm saving for a bike!" "I know. $20 please. And next time, it will be $25 and the time after that it will be $30, and each time it will go up $5." Sara handed Isabel a $20 bill and stopped mouthing off. Isabel had taken care of herself by charging a hefty fee for rudeness, rather than staying upset. Sara suffered a big consequence for her choices that resulted in her making new choices. Seven-year old Dylan was in a power struggle with his father, David, about brushing his teeth at night. The next time Dylan went to the dentist, he had a cavity due to not brushing. By that night, David had decided what to do. "Dylan, I'm tired of trying to get you to brush your teeth every night. It's not fun and I'm drained by it. So from now on, I will remind you once, and if you get cavities as a result of not brushing your teeth, you will have to pay the cost of the fillings with your birthday and Hanukah money." The next time Dylan got a cavity, he had to pay the bill. It took half the money he had saved. After that, Dylan didn't even have to be reminded to brush his teeth.

The power struggle was over. Discovering a loving limit is a creative process. It takes thought to come up with a consequence for your child that makes you feel good. When your intent is to be kind to yourself and take loving care of yourself, you can go to your Guidance for help in coming up with consequences that make you feel happy. You can also discuss it with friends, engaging others in the creative process. When you want to find the loving limit, you will.