Helpful Tips

The Art of Setting Limits

Setting limits is one of the most powerful tools that professionals have to promote positive behavior change for their clients, students, residents, patients, etc. Knowing there are limits on their behavior helps the individuals in your charge to feel safe. It also helps them to learn to make appropriate choices.
There are many ways to go about setting limits, but staff members who use these techniques must keep three things in mind:
Setting a limit is not the same as issuing an ultimatum.
Limits aren’t threats—If you don’t attend group, your weekend privileges will be suspended.
Limits offer choices with consequences—If you attend group and follow the other steps in your plan, you’ll be able to attend all of the special activities this weekend. If you don’t attend group, then you’ll have to stay behind. It’s your decision.
The purpose of limits is to teach, not to punish.
Through limits, people begin to understand that their actions, positive or negative, result in predictable consequences. By giving such choices and consequences, staff members provide a structure for good decision making.
Setting limits is more about listening than talking.
Taking the time to really listen to those in your charge will help you better understand their thoughts and feelings. By listening, you will learn more about what’s important to them, and that will help you set more meaningful limits.
Effective Limit Setting Video on Demand
Setting limits is one of the cornerstones of CPI's Nonviolent Crisis Intervention® program and can be a very helpful technique for managing confrontational behavior. This video-on-demand program helps viewers understand:
How to know when it's time to set a limit.
The difference between setting a limit and issuing an ultimatum.
Why it's important to be a good listener.
Myths and realities of human behavior and communication.
How to get better at setting limits and avoiding power struggles.