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    Limits in the Cereal Aisle: Coco Puffs vs. Cheerios

    Dr. Donna Housman       

    We’ve all been there. Those awkward few moments when you know your child’s emotions are about to run hot in the cereal aisle of the grocery store. You, wise and sensible parent, are choosing to bring home the healthy choice, but your toddler has already eyed the sugar coated and chocolate filled cereal that will harm your angel’s newly formed teeth! As your sweet toddler’s brows begin to furrow, you fear a tantrum is about to erupt.

    Toddlers, like our friend in the cereal aisle, are always finding ways to push the boundaries and cross lines created by parents. As parents, we love our children, but when emotions run hot, the manner in which we interact with our children determines how successful we will be in setting the limit needed or creating the boundary that keeps our children safe. It’s our job as parents to set limits in order to help children develop self control, manage and deal with the powerful emotions they feel.

    Back in the cereal aisle, your toddler is crying, angry and unhappy with your sensible choice of cereal. In order to set the limit for your child, you must learn what the problem is by asking him or her what the problem is in order to seek a solution together. Acknowledge how your child is feeling to show that you empathize with his or her situation and help your child identify the feelings of anger, sadness or frustration. A young child doesn’t recognize that he is angry and upset – it must be identified. Provide reasons why the sugary chocolate cereal is not a good choice for this week’s grocery shopping adventure and provide a choice. Include your child in the resolution by allowing him or her to choose corn puffs or rice puffs!

    Setting limits helps children become autonomous, organize, regulate and understand their emotions and behaviors, and feel secure and in control of themselves. When limits are set and enforced consistently, self-regulation and control are reinforced; both of which studies have found to be important for life-long success!


    Thank you to parents and guests who joined us for Dr. Housman’s Empowered Parenting Lecture on Setting Limits with Your Children last night! Follow the link to for an overview of the presentation.

    If you have any questions please leave us comments below or on Facebook. Dr. Housman will provide an answer soon!