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Parenting: How To Set Limits For Young Children

As a parent, you need to set limits and instill appropriate behavior in young children. Sometimes, the best ways to accomplish this are not very obvious. Here are several suggestions to help you accomplish this more easily.

* Give specific instructions. “Be good” is not a specific instruction. “I’ll play with you after you brush your teeth” is a specific instruction. So is “Put your toys into this box.”

* Experts say it is far better to have a few rules that you consistently enforce than to have many rules that you enforce only once in a while. Therefore, avoid setting too many rules.

* Rules and limits you set for your child should be appropriate for her age. They can be for the health / safety of the child and adults, or for other reasons. Above all, clearly explain both the rule and the rationale for having it.

* Give the child the opportunity to freely express his feelings about the limits you set. Even if those feelings are negative ones. Respond by repeating their opinions in your own words -- “I know you feel left out when mommy has to spend so much time with the baby.”

* Shouting at or hitting a child is counterproductive and dangerous. Such behavior shows a lack of respect for the child and can lead to other problems.

* Get to eye level with the child and make eye contact when explaining rules.

* Be brief but clear on the rule or limit. Talking too much is not very useful. In particular, avoid labeling the child as dumb, slow, etc.

* Speak kindly and firmly to the child. Emotion-laded speech and body language is not useful either, when it comes to teaching self-discipline.

* Cut out your personal involvement in the situation. Don’t, for instance, accuse the child of having done something just to make you mad.

* When possible, give the child a choice between two alternatives that are acceptable to you. Being able to make a choice always gives a feeling of greater control to the child. He or she will then be far more willing to listen to you.

* Let a child know in advance what’s coming. For instance, if she hates taking a bath, let her know that in fifteen minutes, it will be bath-time. This will help reduce her frustration.

* Be sensitive to the child’s moods and feelings, When he is hungry or tired, he’s much less likely to cooperate with a new rule.

Follow these suggestions and you’ll make it easier for the child to accept sensible limits and live by them.

About the Author:

Peter Andrews is a successful author and has written extensively on parenting. Check out and for his articles covering parenting tips, baby care ideas and many other related areas.

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