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I came across an article on setting limits for your children in the parenting section of a recent edition of the Work & Family Life newsletter. The article was written by Dr. Ron Taffel and was adapted from his book “Childhood Unbound – Saving Our Kids’ Best Selves: Confident Parenting in a World of Change.” Dr. Taffel gives 5 suggestions of effective limits to set for children without causing a child rebellion.
The first suggestion is for curbing freedom of speech at home. Some parents let their children say whatever comes to mind and some are very proud when their grade school child can negotiate a later bedtime or different clothing. But a child’s freedom of speech must have bounds, especially toward his or her parents.
The second area is for respect and empathy. Dr. Taffel writes that demanding a degree of respect from kids of all ages protects your child’s emotional well-being…learning that you have feelings and that certain lines are not to be crossed gives children a blueprint of interpersonal wisdom.” Both kids and adults can tell when kids cross the respect line; the key is to name what has just been said as wrong or unacceptable. For example, saying to your child “Calling me a name like that may get a laugh on TV, but it is completely unacceptable here.”
Third is to just say yes to setting a limit. Although we have all heard that consequences should be compassionate and fit the crime, it also must be enforceable. When determining a consequence, stop and decide who it will hurt more, you or your child. Take a few breaths, walk away and reflect. Dr. Taffel suggests you reduce your immediate threat by half before it leaves your lips and to not be afraid to replace an impulsive consequence with an enforceable one.
Forth is to use limits and consequences to teach. Consequences also give us an avenue to teach our children. After the transgression, come back to the child and briefly review what happened, about what was out of line, and then ask: How can we do it differently next time? Kids can come up with some great solutions.
And finally, reward genuine effort by your children. Focus on what they are doing right and this feedback will help show children that you are actively engaged and that you can and do see when they are doing something right. Praise them for their efforts and only when you mean it. Dr. Taffel says to always remember: praise small, praise quick, praise genuinely.