PEP Blog


Limit Setting, Class Recap and On to PEP II

By Elizabeth Jones

For the final session of our PEP I class, as Paige was out of town, we were treated to a discussion of limit setting led by PEP’s education director and longtime class leader Patti Cancellier. Each leader has their own presentation style and approach to leading a class, but the core material is the same. By the end of class, it felt like Patti had been there all along.

Understanding the difference between rules and limits starkly highlights the difference between authoritarian and democratic parenting. We all have limits; even our kids do. Think about the limit that your younger child might have for being teased by an older sibling before lashing out after she has reached her limit. By cooperatively establishing and enforcing limits, we can hopefully avoid reaching the point of lashing out at our kids when they bump up against our limits—and they will.

Limit setting is a capstone on the last seven weeks, challenging participants to use when/then and either/or statements while sounding like a broken record and taking action. It sounds like a lot, but our class members have a solid foundation and they know that, even if they mess up when they try out this latest tool, they get to try again.

As we wrapped up the class, going over all the strategies that were covered in these short eight weeks—encouragement, listening, choices, training, mistaken goals, consequences and limit setting—each participant was asked to write down one thing they will take away from the class. Some of the nuggets our participants shared:

  • Praise is lazy
  • There is another way of doing things
  • You can encourage and guide without solving all their problems
  • Don’t lose it—it’s not personal
  • Learn to say “yes” and foster independence
  • Freedom with responsibility
  • It’s OK not to be perfect; you can apologize and not lose your child’s respect
  • Be creative; listen to the child and think about it with him, not for him
  • My natural tendencies are all wrong and I’m learning to try new approaches
  • Use encouragement with the belief that our kids will react in ways we hope they will
  • My kids feel I’m more fair now

Part of what makes the PEP model so successful is the ability of class participants to pick the tools that are most natural for them and find solid success. Over time, participants can build upon these successes as they gain confidence and try out new tools. Some work right out of the box, and others require more effort.

The last session of a core class at PEP always feels abrupt. You finally are in a groove, you know your classmates, their kids and some of the reasons that brought them to PEP. And then, BAM! Class is over. Some participants continue meeting as a group outside of PEP to discuss life and parenting. Occasionally, when the stars align, nearly the whole class enrolls in the next PEP class. So excited for PEP II, with almost this whole class remaining together!

Elizabeth Jones is a PEP leader-in-training and served as the assistant leader for the winter PEP I class at Temple Micah in Washington, about which Paige Trevor has been blogging weekly. Elizabeth is the mother of two children, ages 8 and 10.

Photo: Volunteers at PEP’s Can Do Kids Fair, March 14. Photo by Jack Dausman.

Spring classes start in the weeks of March 31 and April 13. See the full schedule here; select from the three age groups at the top of the schedule to view classes offered for parents of children in that age group.


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Parent Encouragement Program
10100 Connecticut Ave.
Kensington, MD 20895

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