It is safe for a child to know what is expected of him and to know that others have needs. As your child grows up, it is recommended that reasonable rules and limits be established and respected.
What are the rules and the limits for?
Rules and limits are very helpful in teaching your child how to behave. Indeed, they allow him to learn:
- What he must do and avoid doing;
- Your expectations;
- The values that are important to you. This is the case when you say for example: “It’s not good to hurt others”, “Do not break things” or “In our family, we share”;
- That he is not entitled to anything he wants in life.
Even if they do not always please, rules and limits help to give the child a greater sense of security, especially if they are applied consistently. He knows what to expect and understands clearly what is acceptable and what is not.
According to experts, children who have no limit to respect feel anxious and lost because they simply enjoy too much freedom.
Focus on constancy
Being consistent means that you need to tell your child the limits he/she must follow and try to avoid them as little as possible. Of course, you will probably have to intervene several times before your toddler respects them, but your perseverance will eventually pay off. Moreover, always intervening, in the same way, makes it possible to secure your child and correct a behavior more quickly.
Lack of consistency may cause your child to oppose you or become anxious.
For example, if you take his little cars off whenever he throws them at him saying “Cars are made to roll”, your toddler will eventually stop doing so. By doing so, you teach him what you expect from him. As he ages and understands better, give him short explanations (eg, “You risk hurting your brother when you start your cars.”).
However, if your period varies from day to day, your child may feel lost and not know what behavior is expected of him. Your toddler could put a lot more time before giving up inappropriate behavior. He will also be more inclined not to respect the limits because he will have understood that the rules are not always applied.
Not always easy to be constant
At the end of an exhausting day, if your child does not respect one of your periods, you may be tempted to let him do so to avoid a crisis or, on the contrary, give him a disproportionate punishment in the face of anger. To remain constant even in the heat of the moment, you can:
- Identify consequences in advance for different types of behaviors that you want to improve in your child
- Isolate yourself and think a few minutes;
- Ask your partner to take over.
The exception that confirms the rule
If you do not want to apply one of your rules for an evening or a holiday (eg to delay bedtime), it is possible without disturbing your child. Explain, however, that this is a special occasion. He will understand that it is exceptional.
Ask him for his opinion when establishing routines or solving problems. Say, for example: “Do you prefer to choose your clothes the next day before going to bed or do you like to make your choice that very morning? When you want him to do something, let him choose from a range of options, if possible.
Security: no compromise
Security rules are not negotiable, however. For example, you can tell him: “Do not run in the street” or “Do not touch the rounds of the stove. On the other hand, as he grows up and your child becomes more independent, you can ask him for his opinion on some of the expectations you have for him.
Reinforce good behavior
When you highlight your child’s positive actions and give them positive attention, this reinforces their good behavior and self-esteem. For example, if your child wipes damage or takes care of tidying up his toys, congratulate him. It will be less tempted to use the wrong behaviors to get your attention.
Find moments to focus exclusively on your little one. From 15 to 20 minutes a day is enough to meet his need for attention. If your child feels that he or she is important to you, he or she will also value your requests.
Remember that children respect boundaries better and meet expectations when they feel loved and noticed.
When mom and dad do not get along
Disagreements about how to intervene with children are common among parents, whether they live together or are separated. The important thing is that the rules of each parent are constant. On the other hand, if you apply different rules and in addition, they change continuously, your toddler may be lost.
And if it does not work?
Even if you master the art of setting limits and expressing your expectations, your child will disobey your rules at some point. Do not believe that he is mean or that you do not know how to impose discipline. All children, especially when they are young, disobey the rules: this is normal.
They do it to “push the limits”, to assert their autonomy or, simply, by simple fatigue. For this reason, you may, from time to time, “let through” when your child disobeys the rule, provided his safety has not been compromised.
However, these exceptions must be rare. It is much easier for your child to know your expectations if you are consistent.