Setting limits with children isn’t always easy, especially when they are having a meltdown on the grocery store floor because you won’t buy that sucker. However, when we give in, we are actually modeling to children that this behavior is rewarding. While you may be afraid to set limits with your children for fear of how they will react or that you’re limiting their ability to navigate the world or creativity, setting boundaries is actually beneficial for your children and your home.
Why Setting Boundaries with Your Child is Important
Children need to understand the world does not revolve around them. Setting boundaries with children communicates that they do not get to control every situation and do not get something simply because they want it. Allowing a child to always pick the activity or buying them whatever their heart desires, communicates that they are entitled to whatever they please. Boundaries model to children fairness and compromise, tools that will impact their entire life.
Creates a Stable, Functional Home Environment
Home should be your child’s safe haven, a place where they’re free of feeling the pressure and anxiety of the outside world. However, when you are not setting clear, consistent boundaries with your child, you can create a sense of instability. If children are not sure what to expect, meaning the rules and consequences change from day to day, they are not able to develop a sense of security in the home. Setting boundaries communicates clear rules and limits to your child. When they have a stronger understanding of rules and consequences, they are able to regulate themselves as opposed to walking on eggshells wondering how you will react in every situation.
Creates an Appropriate System within the Home
I’ve often had parents express to me that it’s easier to give in to their child then deal with the tantrum that results from telling them no. They have also shared that they feel on edge, wondering how their child will react. In these situations, your child is in complete control of the household. Somehow your child has flipped the roles and now has all the power in the home. Setting clear boundaries from the beginning, especially when children reach toddlerhood and start to understand they are separate of their parents, will help them understand that you are in control. As parents, you should be the leader of the household, as they leader is responsible for creating harmony and security. However, with that said, when setting boundaries, it is beneficial to explain to your child why that limit is in place.
Setting boundaries within the home not only helps mitigate the chaos you and your children might experience, it also helps them have a stronger understanding of other’s limits. When you teach your child boundaries at a young age, they are more receptive to the boundaries of others and understand the importance of compromise. Ultimately, respecting the boundaries of others can help children develop successful relationships as they can be more understanding of others’ physical and emotional limits.
While it isn’t always easy to set and maintain boundaries with your children, especially when they are melting down in public, remember you are rewarding when you surrender, communicating that their behavior will get them rewarded. Setting developmentally appropriate limits for your child not only can lessen the chaos in the home, it teaches them life skills, and reduces their sense of entitlement. If you find that your child is currently controlling the household, set limits with them. Just know that this will be more than likely be struggle, especially if your child has been in control for sometime; however, it can vastly impact your home environment and your child’s future.
Lori Dougherty is a Marriage and Family Counselor at The Marriage and Family Clinic in Denver, CO. As a child and family counselor, she helps families navigate the many difficulties that can arise. Through art, play, and parent coaching, she helps families rebuild their bond so they can feel like a family again.