Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Kids Need Limits

Kids need to know what their limits are.  They need to know the rules.  And who makes the rules?  The parent(s)/guardians/caregivers.  It's up to us to decide what the family limits are, teach them to our kids, and enforce them.  The kids are responsible for living within these limits.  And for pushing the limits to see what the consequences will be.  Kids break rules because they want to know whether or not the limits are real.  More specifically, they want to know that their caregivers care enough to enforce the limits.  If there are no boundaries, there is chaos, uncertainty, and danger.

Limits/boundaries/rules keep a kid safely enclosed in healthy, respectful, obedient behavior.  It would be nice if the rules could always be clearly stated, easily remembered, and readily understood.  In some instances, they can be.  "Whash your hands after using the toilet" is pretty straight forward.  However, many rules, such as "be respectful," must be taught and defined over time.  What does it mean to be respectful?  No name-calling, no yelling, no defiant looks?  You can see that rule-making isn't always clear-cut and simple.  It's important to spend time with your kids not only teaching them the rules, but also modeling proper behavior.  The better you know your kids and vice versa, the better you will be able to define the limits and the better your kids will understand them.

When your kids are young, start with the basics: no biting, no hitting, no throwing blocks at other people's heads, no playing with electrical outlets, etc.  Model good behavior for your kids and initiate discussions about what it means to be kind, respectful, and polite.  Some rules will arise as you kids break them: "No throwing food on the floor at mealtimes."  Others are best decided upon and taught ahead of time: "Stay away
from the road when you're playing outside."

Next time, we'll talk about setting the consequences for breaking the rules.

For now, think about the following:
What are the limits/rules/boundaries in our home?  Have I taught my kids what the limits are?  If not, maybe it's time to make a short list.  Customize the rules to your family and kids' developmental levels.  Try to explain the rules in simple language - especially for very young kids.

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