Setting Limits for Your Child

Children need limits for healthy development and thrive when limits are clear. Even though children may not like specific limits, the general impact is an enhanced sense of security for the child. Children feel safer and more secure when they know their parents are firm with limits because they know that their parents are in charge.

Setting limits for your child is also a very important way to help your child develop frustration tolerance and to learn to control his or her emotions.

Basically, setting limits for your child means stating rules, giving instructions or directions to your child to do something or to stop doing something, or saying “no” to something your child is asking for.


Stating rules:

Giving instructions or directions to your child to DO something:

Giving instructions or directions to your child to STOP DOING something:

Saying “no” to something your child is asking for.

Things to remember when giving directions to your child:

What Happens When Limits or Rules Are Broken or Instructions or Directions Are Not Followed by Children?

A consequence is something parents decide on ahead of time to carry out IF their child refuses to obey a limit or rule or comply with an instruction.

Be prepared for resistance from your child in the form of crying, screaming, yelling, swearing, rude comments, etc. This is normal. It is important for you to remain calm at this point and do not react to your child. Remember to not take this resistance personally! Do not engage in anything further with your child at this point other than ensuring the consequence is carried out (this might need to be done at a later time if the consequence was to lose a TV show or computer time later in the day.)

Do not engage in any discussion with your child at this point about the reason for the rule, about negotiation of a lighter consequence, or anything else! Ignore complaints and questions at this point. The time for discussion is several hours after the incident or even the next day when you both are more stable emotionally and able to discuss what went wrong and how things could go better in the future.

Copyright Kathy Eugster, 2012. All Rights Reserved.

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Kathy Eugster, MA, RCC, CPT-S

MA, Counselling Psychology
Registered Clinical Counsellor
Certified Play Therapist – Supervisor
Child and Family Therapist

Kathy Eugster