Setting appropriate limits for children involves instilling excellent self-discipline techniques so that you can prevent having to punish them if they get in trouble. Self -discipline is what shapes and teaches your child to be a confident, happy and independent adult. However setting limits for your child has to be done in a consistent, loving and respectful way in order to hit the perfect balance between guidance and control. In other words you do not want your limits to be too lax or too strict; both can have negative affects on your child’s development. With the exception of the safety and well being of your child and others, only you can decide the appropriate limits for children. Here are some tips on how to set effective limits for children.
Try to set as few limits for children as possible. Having too many rules is harder for you to enforce and also harder for your children to follow. Children with too many rules or limits often become overwhelmed, feel that they are bad and often rebel whenever possible.
Determine limits for children that are extremely important to you and your family and must be followed at all times, such as safety. These limits should always be consistently enforced by you as well as other caregivers. You should also define some broader limits for children that are more flexible if need be.
When you decide on the specific limits for children that are appropriate for your family, make sure to discuss them with your children before a situation arises so that they clearly understand what you expect from them. In addition, be sure to communicate your limits for children in a positive rather than negative tone. For example, if you want to make it clear to a child to stay out of the road, phrase your statement positively such as “ You must stay out of the road because it is dangerous and I need you to be safe.” rather than “If you go in the road then you will lose your television privileges." This way you can reinforce lasting and meaningful positive behavior instead of administering temporary, negative consequences.
Providing reasons for why you set limits for children also helps to reinforce the appropriate behavior that you expect. In the example above, the positive statement provides a reason for the limits you expect your children to follow, which is safety. This not only helps children to apply a limit to a myriad of dangerous situations but also allows them to feel that you have confidence in them, which is crucial to their self esteem.
Finally make sure your limits for children are appropriate for their age. As your kids grow you need to constantly evaluate and adapt your limits to their blossoming independence. If your children feel that you are treating them younger then they are, they are less likely to make the right choices when no one is looking.