Setting Limits, Boundaries and Consequences for Your Child
Parents sometimes forget that teaching limits, boundaries and consequences not only keeps a child safe, it teaches them lifelong skills they need in order to be a successful adult. Appropriate limits and boundaries provides a child with the feelings of safety and security as well as making parenting easier.
The other day at the park I observed a mother trying to get her 5-6 year old out of the park. The child ran around screaming and yelling “no”, hiding in the tunnels of the slide for 30 minutes before the mother chased her down, lifted her up like a sack of potatoes, and aggressively threw the child in the car. This child at such a young age has managed to control her wants over the parent being able to parent. Going to the park with your child should be a fun and non-confrontational experience. Young children need boundaries and limits so they understand expectations. This child may have just needed a friendly 5 minute warning such as “we will be leaving in 5 minutes so we can go home to prepare dinner”. Communicating with children makes them feel involved in a families daily matters and also sets precedence of expected behavior. After that 5 minutes of the parent allowing this child to be disrespectful by wildly running amuck, the parent only teaches their child this behavior is acceptable. If you, as a parent, allow your child to continuously test and cross boundaries, you do not teach your child responsibility, respect or accountability.
Boundaries and limits are guidelines for expected behavior and teaches children what is acceptable versus what is not acceptable. Boundaries and limits need to be clear, fair and reasonable. This is where communicating with your child even at young ages is very important. Our job as parents is to guide, nurture, empower and teach children about responsibility and respect.
Firstly parents (teachers as well) need to define limits and boundaries. These should be clear and easy for a child to understand and something you can easily communicate. With this communication you need to let it be known what your exact expectations are. Giving children choices (ones you can live with) helps makes expectations easier. When children are involved in any process they are more likely to “respect” the expectations put in place.
When a child acts poorly, tests or even crosses a boundary or limit set in place, you need to make them accountable for their behavior. When your child experiences consequences, it gives them an understanding of what that expectation was and they will respect you. Rules and boundaries help keep children safe, responsible and teaches them respect. Understanding boundaries assists children with communication, negotiation and conflict resolution skills as they grow older. Boundaries and limits can actually help people be motivated to co-operate and get along as expectations and communication is set in place.
The goal of boundaries and limits is to avoid conflict with children. No one wants to be that parent who can’t get their child out of a park just because there was no expectation or cooperative communication. Anytime we can parent with less stress is what’s best for us as well as the child.