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Setting Reasonable Limits for Your Child
The limits you set for your child are like guardrails on a bridge they provide a sense of security. Setting limits tells a child, "I care about you, I want you to be safe, and I want you to act responsibly so youll learn to get along happily with others." Take care, however, not to overwhelm you children with rigid control. You are more likely to be effective if you focus on the limits you feel are most important.
The limits you set should protect children from physical harm, protect property, and protect children and others from psychological harm.
Before you set a limit, ask yourself: Is this rule really important? Am I willing to deal with the conflicts that will arise if my child disregards the limit?
You also need to consider whether your child is capable of doing what you expect of her. For instance, it is inappropriate to demand that toddlers keep their rooms clean or to expect boisterous 10-year-olds to always remember their mealtime manners. Remember, if children cant be good at succeeding, then they are easily tempted to be good at failing. With this in mind, set limits so your child can succeed.
In addition to negative limits, such as, "Dont hit your brother," or "Dont throw that in the house," children need positive limits to deal with their emotions. For example, you might say to your child, "When you get angry, tell me how you feel tell me youre angry!". This will show your child another way of handling anger.
It goes without saying that limits must be enforced consistently. This provides an atmosphere of security and direction for children. Once a limit is set, the child should know clearly when it applies one time, some of the time, or all of the time. A childs respect for parents and for authority in general is likely to diminish if the rules keep changing and enforcement is inconsistent.
The ultimate goal in setting limits is to help children develop self-control and self-direction. You can help them practice these skills by talking with them about problems and encouraging them to suggest guidelines for their own behavior.
And finally, remember to re-examine the limits you set for your child. Is the rule you laid down when she was three years old still appropriate now that shes five years old? As your child matures, so should your limits.
Source: University of Minnesota
Extension Service, InfoU script
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