Reflections #18. From permissiveness to Loving Limits¬†ūüíĆ

Reflecting on my parenting journey, may you see yourself reflected.

From permissiveness
to Loving Limits

Issue #18, August 2016

Loving Limits are connected, compassionate, understanding, respectful and forgiving.



Today I offer a very vulnerable and radically honest share. I hope you can read with compassion. And I hope it can help you better understand the concept of Loving Limits.

I also want to share with you that my colleague and friend Shana and I did our first Aware Parenting introductory talk yesterday 31st of of July! We are very excited to be sharing something we are so passionate about out there in the world and inspire others. If you are interested in further talks or other events happening in this beautiful area of the world, check out the Events page on my website:

A little window into my life


The children were on holidays, and they had spent most of the day playing together. It hadn’t been easy. My son can be a difficult person to relate to sometimes: he becomes very demanding, wanting everything to be done his way and everyone to respond to his requests immediately. He finds it hard to be flexible or to take responsibility for anything that goes wrong. My daughter tends to go along with his requests, just for the sake of peace.

I had been busy around the house, hearing him raise his tone of voice and become snappy, accusative and demanding, then calm down again. Every time, my stomach would tighten and my breath become shallow, I would wonder if I needed to stop what I was doing and help them… then, as peace seemed to return, I would let it go and go back to what I was doing.

What I didn’t realise is that me not stepping in to set Loving Limits¬† was part of an unresourceful pattern of mine. She tends to go along with his requests because she has seen me do the same: at times when my son has been disrespectful I often would just ignore it, try to forgive him and see the pain that made him react in such a way. But in doing so I would ignore my own hurt, and the fact that he had done something unloving. That was not useful to him. I want him to learn to respect others, and I wasn’t setting a good example when I wasn’t respecting myself in those interactions.

The evening came and they got together in the shower. Tension, sharp words and tone of voice mounted. Right next door, I was trying to quickly get something done on the computer before they finished, but I just couldn’t focus. In the end, I stormed into the bathroom and shouted: ‘Right, one of you is going to the upstairs shower! Now!!’ I turned off the water: ‘No water running while we decide who is going’. What followed was very painful for everyone, as you can imagine. It got worse by the second until my son threw the shampoo bottle and hit my head. I totally lost it and slapped him.

I took myself away. I cried and cried for my daughter’s pain, my son’s pain and my own, and for the fact that I din’t know how to make it better. I cried out the tension of a whole day hearing abuse and not doing anything about it. My Inner Loving Father (ILF) came and held me tenderly. I have barely hit my children in their lives, but whenever I have, I’ve felt awful and guilty. Yet, this time, my ILF told me lovingly: ‘You did the best you could. He shouldn’t have thrown the bottle at you’. Having such loving compassion offered, I cried again, hard, for all the times my own boundaries have been stepped over, for the many times I have not been able to protect myself. I could see how those instances, years and years of them, had fed my anger. And feeling confused as to how to set Loving Limits had contributed to me dumping my anger and slapping my son, rather than finding a positive solution. But there was a peace under my grief to which I came quite quickly. I sensed I had been forgiven, so it was easier to move on.

My next thought was: ‘I don’t want to do that EVER again. If allowing him to step over my boundaries results in situations like this, I will not allow it again, not even the slightest transgression.’ That felt powerful, solid and peaceful. It felt like an effective and loving way to protect myself from his anger and him from mine. I sensed my Inner Loving Father right next to me, encouraging and supportive. I returned to my children.

Reconnecting with my daughter took only a few seconds. With my son took almost and hour. I would get as close as he would let me, offer compassion and love. After a while he would invariably get tense and start blaming me for all that had happened with a harsh voice. I would gently get up and move away, saying: “I don’t want you to talk to me like this, my love”. After a while I would come back, but stay only an long as he was being kind. It seemed like eventually the message sank in, and from then on I went from one surprise to the next.

The first surprise was the speed of his “recovery”: within minutes of accepting a cuddle, he was laughing and playful like nothing had happened! Usually after difficult interactions he stays sombre for quite a while, and this was definitely up among the most difficult moments there has ever been between us; yet, he was so obviously over it! I was amazed.

The second surprise was that very soon after that initial cuddle, he hugged me and said sorry. My jaw dropped. He seldom admits there is any reason for him to apologise. But that day he obviously saw one, and took action quickly and without prompting. Wow!

The third surprise was that he didn’t say anything to daddy. When I “misbehave”, as soon as my husband walks in the door, he will run to him and tell him exactly how there was nothing he could do and I was to blame for everything. That day he was more cheerful and fun after the incident than during the whole day before it and, when my husband came home, that is all he saw: a happy son.

The fourth surprise was how affectionate and loving he was that evening, with all of us. That is definitely a trait of his, but I have never seen it just after a painful interaction like we had just had. Something meaningful happened that day, and it was blatantly obvious from the moment I reconnected with him.

The theory behind the practice

Those of you familiar with Aware Parenting will provably be thinking that¬† my son’s recovery was not so surprising. The theory says that if the child is able to release the pain of a difficult interaction fully, then his usual loving cheerful self will resurface and he will be a joy to be with. This is a common effect in children after having a tantrum during which someone has listened lovingly.

There was only one difference between the way I used to reconnect with him after being unloving, and the way I reconnected with him that day. Before I would listen to him moan and rant about how I was a horrid mum and I would take it in, because I felt so guilty at having lost my center; instead, that day I loved him, but also myself. I was ready to listen, but as long as it was respectful. And, somehow, me taking responsibility for myself seemed to lift a heavy burden from his shoulders.

I guess for me it was surprising because it so flagrantly confirmed the conclusion I had just come to only an hour before: that putting a Loving Limit to all of his anger was the best thing I could do for both of us (and his sister, too!)

Having carried on with my vow of setting Loving Limits to even the slightest transgression of his, I can see more and more encouraging results as the days and weeks go by: he is more able to see when he is responsible for something gone wrong, he is more supportive of his sister and able to appreciate her achievements, instead of always needing to be first and best, he apologises with a lot more ease… he is even more cooperative in general, significantly¬†more affectionate towards his sister, and finds it easier to loose at competitive games!!! I don’t know if all of those shifts are directly due to my Loving Limits, but I sense is that my relationship with him is healthier, and so that is helping him grow into the boy he really is.

There is something fascinating about the whole concept of Loving Limits for me, which is the balance between the Love and the Limit, between the feminine and the masculine principles. (My mentor, Marion Rose, has a very good article about it; you will find a link to it under the definition in the Glossary section). We have lived in a patriarchal world for thousands of years, and this is the reason most parenting approaches tend to be too authoritarian. Qualities like connection, compassion, understanding, respect and forgiveness are lost in this approach. Of course, swaying too much on the permissive side is no good either. The ideal, obviously, is to strike the perfect balance, but that perfect balance is really hard to find because of the pain we suffered as children when limits were imposed on us without sensitivity and love.

Most people tend to veer on the side of authority, because we tend to repeat the parenting we received, so it’s hard to understand permissiveness. It has taken me ages to see that I was being permissive and to understand why, and I’d like to tell you what I have discovered in that search.¬†I was sexually abused when I was little. Abuse of any kind tends to confuse very much the sense of the victim’s boundaries. That has meant that I have been letting my children step over my boundaries without even realising. This is why I have found it so difficult to set Loving Limits, and why my children tend to be aggressive when upset.

To heal that, I have had to grow a new “inner father figure”, a part of me who could balance the masculine qualities of clarity, solidity and strength with sensitivity, flexibility and love. Doing Marion Rose’s Inner Loving Presence Process course helped enormously, and from it I got Marion’s term Inner Loving Father,¬†which I use to name this part of myself. This is the part that can set¬†limits, and can do it with love (i.e., connection, compassion, understanding, respect and forgiveness) as opposed to overpowering my children. I find that balance between the two aspects of a Loving Limit so subtle and tricky to find! It requires a lot of introspection for us, to check our inner “shoulds” and any other sign of pain to be healed.

Anyway, enough for one newsletter. A whole book could be written on this theme alone, but I will leave it here today. I would specially like to hear from you on this issue because I find I am still discovering nuances and gaining understanding, so any conversation on the subject is extra fascinating. Thanks!

If you see yourself reflected, touched , inspired
or if you have any questions or comments,
I would love to hear from you! 

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Inspired Parenting Glossary

Loving Limits:
A term created by Marion Rose to describe the pairing¬†of gentle empathy with a clear limit, in a loving and connected manner. In both our behaviour and¬†language we communicate a combination of a deep sense¬†of¬†unconditional love and acceptance¬†(with statements like :”I see that you’re upset, I see that you really want that, I’m here, I love¬†you, I’m listening, I’m sorry I wasn’t here to help”), with a¬†limit¬†to a behaviour (for example: “I won’t let you have any more, I’m not willing for you to, I am not going to allow it right now, mummy says no”). For more on Loving Limits, read Marion‚Äôs article .

Inner Loving Father:
The Inner Loving Crew (Mother, Father, Best Friend and Beloved) are all terms created by Marion Rose and represent the healthy expressions of those archetypes inside us. The Inner Loving Father is the part of us that holds the qualities of support, encouragement, protection and adventure. He is solidly with us, protecting us from harm on the outside and inside with Loving Limits.

Aware Parenting:
Aware Parenting is a philosophy of child rearing that has the potential to change the world. Developed by developmental psychologist Aletha Solter and based on current research in child development, Aware Parenting questions most traditional assumptions about raising children, and proposes a new approach that can significantly improve relationships within a family. Parents who follow this approach raise children who are cooperative, compassionate, competent, nonviolent, and drug free.

To read back issues of “Reflections” go to my Facebook page¬†

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