Children need to understand expectations and follow guidelines to grow into responsible adults. Many parents find it challenging to effectively set limits for their children, so our experts at Bard & Didriksen Pediatrics have created this helpful guide.
Why it’s important to set limits for your child
Help them develop a sense of responsibility
Every adult needs to be able to manage their responsibilities through self-discipline. Although lounging on the couch eating snacks is fun, and can be enjoyed from time to time, other responsibilities like school and work need to come first. By setting limits for your children you help them build their understanding of how to be responsible in different settings. You also teach them to deal with the frustrations of not being able to do what they want to do when they want to do it — a critical life skill.
Keep them safe and healthy
Freedom to explore and experience new things is essential for children to learn about the world around them, and setting limits allows them to do so safely. Most children are impulsive and act without consideration for their health and well-being so they need guidance to make good choices.
Help them feel secure
Children thrive in environments of routine and structure because they know what to expect, which gives them a sense of security. Having few or no rules at all can cause anxiety, as they don’t know the outcome of different situations. Being consistent with limits and boundaries demonstrates to children that you are a competent leader who cares for them and will keep them safe.
How to set limits while also considering the child’s feelings
Children have feelings just like adults, and they are still learning to cope with them. When setting limits, be considerate in order to avoid making your child feel unheard or devalued.
Clearly communicate limits consistently
Explain the expectation to your child in words they can easily understand, using specific language that is not vague. Ensure that you and any other caretakers consistently reinforce the boundary once it’s set through reasonable, logical consequences related to the boundary itself.
Do not argue with your child
Your child may struggle to understand why you are setting limits. Sometimes, they will argue and try to negotiate the limits. Let your child express themselves, then explain the reasons for setting the limits.
Recognize when they have complied with the limit
Positive reinforcement is key to maintaining desired behavior in children. When your child sticks to the limit you’ve set, praise them and acknowledge their efforts. This will make them feel valued, motivating them to continue to comply with the boundary in order to feel these positive feelings again.
How to handle a tantrum or meltdown
Setting boundaries and limits often means your child has to stop doing what they want to do at the moment, which can cause feelings of frustration that they may express by screaming or crying. How you react to your child’s tantrum determines how they learn to process these feelings and handle future challenging situations. Here are ways to handle tantrums and meltdowns:
- Ensure your child is in a safe place where they will not get hurt during a meltdown.
- Let your child know that you understand their emotions and are willing to help them.
- Inform your child that they can always express their feelings because you are willing to listen.
- If the child continues to throw tantrums, move away, because they are enjoying the attention even though it’s negative.
Avoid sounding harsh out of frustration and anger no matter how your child tries to provoke you. It’s your responsibility to help them learn to respond to situations calmly. Remind yourself that they are not intentionally giving you a hard time, they are having a hard time.
Seek professional help when necessary
If you feel things are getting out of control with your child and you need further assistance with setting limits, a pediatrician can be a great first resource. At Bard & Didriksen pediatrics, we believe in nurturing the parent-child bond. Our healthcare experts can offer personalized methods to try. We can also help identify behavioral conditions that may be contributing to the situation. Contact us today to make an appointment with one of our experienced providers.