boundaries for your kids
  • | October 4, 2016
Inevitably, setting limits for your kids is a challenging process that all parents have to face one way or another. As a father, it’s common to be unclear about the best methods for disciplining your kids. But is there really a right or wrong way to do it? The answer is yes.

If you want to set limits without resorting to strict, harsh, or authoritative tactics, here are some techniques to help you along:

  1. Make a plan. Having a plan for how to go about setting limits will make you feel more secure when approaching the subject. Introduce the limitations one step at a time so both you and your children feel more comfortable with the process. You can’t suddenly impose a list of 10 things your children should do and 10 things your children should not do – this will overwhelm them and make them resistant to change. These things take time, and it would be wise to start asking for smaller compromises first before moving on to bigger responsibilities.

  2. Be specific and avoid vague language. If you want to set clear and specific limits, you need to use clear and specific language. Being vague will result in your children being unclear about their role inside the new system of guidelines. So instead of simply saying, “Don’t do this thing again,” it would be more effective to say, “This thing is wrong for x reason, and if you don’t do it again, I would be very happy.” Setting up cause and effect scenarios will make it more clear to your children what the direct result of their actions will be. Clarity is key.

  3. Use appropriate body language. As a man, it’s easy to adopt an aggressive demeanor without trying much. It can also be easy to appear as though you simply don’t care or don't take the situation seriously. Psychologists agree that it’s better here to adopt a firm yet neutral body pose and facial expression when working through these issues with your children. This is a strong posture to maintain and leaves no room for your children to make incorrect interpretations of your meaning.

  4. Consider your children’s developmental age. Children at different ages react differently to various discipline tactics. For example, 2-3 year olds are notorious for saying "no" to any request, whereas 4-6 year olds often want to know the reason behind a new rule. Adjust your approach accordingly, and don’t demand from your children that they behave in a certain way that is outside their capabilities for their age group.

  5. Stay firm and decisive. By their very nature, your children may change their minds five times a minute. As a parent, however, this is not acceptable behavior. If you say, “No playing outside on Mondays,” then on random occasions, you switch and say, “No playing outside on Thursdays,” you're giving your children mixed messages. They will become unclear about how you expect them to behave, and this increases the likelihood that they will break the assigned rules in the future. If you are consistent with your orders, your children will be more likely to listen.

Remember that being too strict and demanding or punishing unfairly may give the opposite result of what you desire. If you are firm and consistent without being harsh, your kids will respond positively to your request, and you are certain to see more disciplined behaviors.

Good luck!