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Setting limits & boundaries that work

5 May
Posted by:
Michael Grose
Kids love limits and boundaries. They love to push against them.

They teach them how to behave and how to be safe and social.

They are an essential part of discipline, yet so often we get them wrong.

When they are done well they are super-effective.

Recently, I saw my next door neighbour uses limits effectively to teach his four year old about safe riding. His four year old is allowed to ride his bike on the footpath two blocks in either direction from his house.

The limits set work so well because they clear, specific and realistic. Let’s look at each of these criteria.

• Clear as the four year old has had the two block limit explained to him in language he understands.
• Specific as three house is three houses.
• Realistic as it is within the four year olds’ skill and experience range. It makes sense.

The limits weren’t fuzzy (not taking the time to explain and make sure the child understands), general (‘don’t go too far!!’) and unrealistic (‘you can’t ride outside at all’).

Kids will push the limits. I’ve seen the four year old ride a little further than two blocks but he knows he is pushing it, and he only goes a little bit over.

The point is, he knows and only goes a little bit over.

It maybe time for his mum to push the limits out a little further…. maybe to the end of the street.

That’s an issue for another time.

This type of limit-setting can be applied to any situation and any age group, even teenagers going out at night.

Make sure the limits you set for kids are:

Clear – they understand what they are

Specific – delivered in concrete or specific terms

Realistic –they fit within the child’s developmental range.

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