Setting Limits: Reasons Why it is Important to Set Limits with Kids

Establish Guidelines with Healthy Discipline

Setting limits with kids means setting a guideline for behavior, even when there’s not an official household rule. Since you can’t set a rule about everything, limits are those spur of the moment guidelines that are situational. Although you might not have an official rule that says, “No banging spoons on the table,” you might need to say to your child, “Stop banging your spoon please,” if he’s interrupting conversations at the dinner table.

Sometimes parents struggle to set limits with kids. Feelings of guilt or wanting to avoid a temper tantrum can get in the way of discipline. However, limits are good for kids. In addition to reinforcing the six life skills your discipline should be teaching your child, setting limits is an important part of parenting.

Setting Limits Teaches Kids Self-Discipline

Profile of boy having breakfast
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Setting limits is a great way to teach self-discipline skills. When you say, “Turn off your video games and do your homework please,” you are teaching self-discipline. Showing your child that life isn’t always about having fun teaches him to be responsible.

The eventual goal is for him to learn to do his homework, chores and other healthy behaviors without reminders. Establishing consistent limits and rules helps kids learn how to begin being more self-disciplined on their own.

Setting Limits Keeps Kids Safe

Limits help kids learn about safety. Although it might be safe for your child to play outside, he might need limits about what he’s allowed to do or where he’s allowed to go when he’s playing outside alone. Limits are also needed to keep kids safe when they are using the internet and when they begin doing activities independently.

Limits should be change over time as your child matures. Give your child opportunities to show you that he can be responsible with the limits you’ve given him. If he’s able to handle the limits you’ve set, he can show that he’s ready to handle more responsibility. Creating behavior management contracts can be a great way for a child to show you when he’s ready to have less limits.

Setting Limits Keeps Kids Healthy

By nature, most kids are impulsive and enjoy immediate gratification. Therefore, they need adults to teach them how to be healthy. Limits should be set with a child’s eating habits. Without limits, many kids would eat junk food all day. Setting limits means saying, “No, you can’t have a third cookie,” or “You need to eat a healthy choice first.”

Limits should also be set in regards to electronics. Many kids would be content watching TV or playing on the computer all day long. Set limits with screen time and encourage a healthy, well-rounded lifestyle. Setting limits with exercise and hygiene also keeps kids healthy.

Setting Limits Teaches Kids to Cope with Uncomfortable Feelings

Sometimes parents hate to set limits because they don’t want to make their child sad or mad. Unfortunately, dealing with uncomfortable feelings is a part of life. Preventing your child from experiencing normal emotions can be harmful to kids in the long run.

Just because your child is sad that he can’t eat that third cookie doesn’t mean you should give in. Instead, it gives you a great opportunity to teach your child about feelings and help him find healthy ways to cope with it. This is a great skill that will help ensure your child has the skills necessary to become a responsible adult.

Setting Limits Shows Kids that You Care

Although I don’t know too many kids who will say they enjoy rules, setting limits shows kids that you care. When kids don’t have any rules, it causes a lot of anxiety for them. Despite the fact that they often might act as if they want to be the boss, kids don’t really want to be in charge. Instead, they want to know that you’re in charge and that you’re competent to help them stay under control.

Often, kids will test limits just to see how adults will react. A child who hits his brother just to make sure an adult is going to intervene will feel safe when he learns that his behavior results in consequences. Showing a child that there are negative consequences for breaking the rules, shows that you are going to let things get out of control.

It also teaches a child that you love him. Saying to a teen, “I care about you and that’s why I am giving you a curfew,” might seem to annoy your child. However, it shows that you are willing to work invest energy into your child’s life even if it means having to tolerate being told you’re “the meanest parent ever.”