Your child needs to be responsible for his or her behaviour and learn self control and self responsibility. This will only happen when limits are set for them. Why? Because limits provide security and consistency for children. You only set a limit at the time it is needed, not before. 

The “A-C-T model” (originated by Garry Landreth) is useful when you have to say no to a child’s request. Even when you have to say no to a child, there’s a way to do this while still validating their feelings. This technique says that first you need to acknowledge a feeling, communicate a limit, and then target the alternative.

EXAMPLE: You catch your child jumping on the bed, which is not allowed. You say “I know jumping on the bed is really fun, but this bed is not for jumping. Why don’t we jump on the floor together?”

The ACT Model  is simple to use. Here are the steps again:  

Acknowledge The Feeling

The parent is brief yet specific when stating limits. Parent only states the limit when it appears the child is about to break a limit or already has broken the limit. Catch the child’s attention by saying the child’s name, “[Child’s name], you want to hit ….

Communicate the Limit – …“but you may not…(because…)” – “however, your sister is not for hitting”, or ” the answer is no”.

Target AlternativesYou can…..instead”

I can understand you would like to go outside to play, but you can’t because it’s raining. You can choose to either do a puzzle or we can play a game together.

I know you’re very mad at me, but yelling at me is not okay.  You can go to your room or the basement and cool off for 5 minutes before choosing something else to do.

You really would like to have a few pieces of candy, but dinner is coming soon, so you can have one piece or none.


Stating the limit

The parent is brief yet specific when stating limits. Parent only states the limit when it appears the child is about to break a limit or already has broken the limit. Catch the child’s attention by saying the child’s name, reflect the desire, then state limit “[Child’s name], you want to hit your sister, but that is something you can’t do.”  Give the child an alternative (redirect) to allow the child to open up and redirect    

Giving a warning:

Occurs after the child engages in the prohibited behaviour after being given first warning.  “[Child’s name], remember that I told you that you can’t hit your sister. If you choose to do that one more time, I will end your play . You may punch a stuffed animal if you want.

Enforce the consequence:

This occurs after the limit has been broken for the third time or the second time if  this limit has already warned on previous occasions. The consequence is always the same: “[Child’s name], remember I told you that you cannot hit your sister and if you did that  again we would end your play. Since you have chosen to hit your sister again, your play is over. Now you must leave the area. You can play again another day.

Acknowledge the feeling – Communicate the limit – Target alternatives


To protect child from hurting himself or others

To protect valuable property

– To provide consistency

To maintain parent’s acceptance of child (Children often push for our boundaries  because they know intuitively that they need the safety of our calm, confident responses, and also to release uncomfortable feelings simmering inside them. Our acceptance of these feelings eases the need to test and is one of the most profound ways we can express our love. It gets a little easier for us with practice. )

Why Establish Consistent Limits

The ACT Model is a wonderfully positive way to help children to begin to develop self-discipline and also helps them feel safe and secure. This is what we ultimately want for our children – to be able to regulate their emotions and behavior; in addition, being able to set healthy boundaries for themselves and others, and experience the consequences of their choices and decisions.. The A.C.T. Model is simple, but effective.  






“You have a choice. You can take the medicine from the spoon, or we can put it in a smoothie to disguise the taste. You’re in charge of this decision.”

“You two are really loving this game! And we have a problem to solve. The baby’s asleep and voices this loud will wake her. What should we do?”

“I love how you’re in charge of getting your water yourself. The way to keep our precious water from slipping away down the drain is to twist the handle very tightly when you turn the water off.

“The baby is so much happier in his car seat when you make faces at him. See how much he loves that? Thank you so much for helping him feel better!”

(putting a sock on your ear and speaking in a funny voice), “Is this Ben’s foot?

“It sounds like you would love some ice cream, right this minute! What if we had a huge bowl of ice cream the size of this car?  What kinds of ice cream would you put in your huge car bowl?”

– Natural causes for rebellion must be investigated, such as fatigue, sickness, extreme ress, abuse or neglect. The physical needs and crises Must be taken into account before expecting co-operation.

Remain in control, respecting yourself and the child. It must be remembered that you are not a failure if your child rebels, also your child is not bad. All children need to “practise” rebelling. How does one remain in control:

     Use the Calm technique

     Cool down; Assess options; Listen with empathy; Make a plan

     And if they have blown their foofoo valve…

A genuine and sincere tone is critical. If we’re hovering or pandering (“I hear your feelings”), it can set the teen off. Instead, try a heartfelt comment like, “Wow, this sounds like a real problem.”

When someone is very upset, we’re all tempted to try to solve the problem with our good advice. Unfortunately, this can come across as minimizing or patronizing, and can escalate the conflict. Instead, try something that pulls you away from their complaining cycle such as, “I’d love nothing more than to come up with a brilliant solution that satisfies both of us, honey, but I don’t seem to be able to find one.”

Our adolescents look to us as mirrors reflecting our reassurance that they can handle their situation. If we show anxiety, frustration, anger, or resentment, we’re not inspiring confidence in their own ability to work through the upset. Depending on the situation, a parent might say, “Look, I know you want me to fix this, but I guess I’ll have to let you be mad at me. In the meantime, I really do trust that you can come up with a solution.”

In preparation for the exit, make a comment that breaks the spell but still keeps you connected. The phrase “I’ll go make some tea for us” is a metaphor for any nurturing statement that shows support and implies “I’m not abandoning you.” It could be something like “I hope you’re doing OK with this. Let’s talk again in an hour and see where you are.”

After some time has passed, we can offer some kind of nurturance such as a back rub or hot chocolate. Nonetheless, don’t expect the teen to be happy and completely over it, since resentment and frustration are likely to linger. If the tornado has lost high velocity and dwindled into mere blusters, this, in itself, is a major achievement.

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