Constructing Boundaries — #2 in Series

by Debbie Twomey on March 17, 2011

Raising healthy children takes dedication and consistency. Though it may seem contrary for positive growth, saying NO when necessary can create a very healthy attitude. The need for setting limits with children is crucial —this foundation will affect their ability to interact well within the family unit and with others.



The main reasons for implementing boundaries or limitations:

1. Fosters self-discipline

2. Teaches respecting other’s boundaries

3. Learn to treat others with compassion and kindness

4. Potential to respect authority

5. Promote positive coping skills

6. Safety and security

7. Encourages an understanding of expectations

8. Inspires self-confidence

9. Evolves into manners and acceptable behaviors.

It is vital to establish limits at as early an age as possible. By instilling expectations it may be possible to avoid rude, disrespectful and disruptive behavior in future circumstances. It is not 100% fool-proof, as nothing in this world really can be, but it sets a precedent that gives children skills to put into practice for the rest of their lives.

Beginning around the age of 7-8 months is not too early since that is when babies start crawling and begin their exploration. They have no concept of danger so it is up to parents to not only protect them but provide the keys to guide them. Diverting their attention works but it does not educate the child to avoid areas such as electrical outlets or hot stoves. This lesson must come from parents at an age when they are capable of reasoning. Till they can understand “why” they are not allowed to touch something or go to a specific location it is advisable to train them to follow your directive-completely. When children are able to reason for themselves, they may argue points with you and that is where flexibility will play a huge role.

Being firm is not being unkind; it is a necessary part in promoting your child’s positive development. Verbal prompts can be used to establish the boundary you are trying to set. For most children, verbal will not be enough. The next step to prevent an active infant or toddler could be a light tap on their hand or bottoms. Be sure the tap follows your verbal instruction and be firm. Children will understand when the action and the words interconnect and are concrete. The objective is not to inflict pain but discomfort enough to gain their attention and perhaps persuade them not to repeat action.

Children need consistency in their lives. This assists them in so many aspects of life and will help prevent them from being overloaded or feeling out of control. They look to parents to control certain phases of their world until they reach the age of reasoning and discernment. Pushing those set limits will seem to come naturally to your child and in many ways, it is. You may tap their hand 50 times for the same infraction and the 51st may be the time they finally understand and accept. On the other hand, it may only take a couple of reminders—there is no set number. The important thing to remember is not to give up. Do not change the consequences or you will lose all credibility and getting your child to take you seriously will diminish.

 Raising mentally, spiritually, and emotionally healthy children requires setting limits. Do not be afraid to say NO—protect and nurture your child in safe security. Children that are raised in love receive guidance, encouragement and limit setting to better aid them to mature into healthy adults who have a clear understanding of acceptable and empathetic behaviors. 


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