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Managing Time





The Teen Years





What Rules and Limits? Finding a Way with Young Children

Establishing rules and limits for the family is important, especially when children are young. The process of rule setting and understanding them starts early. Children learn which rules are really important and which ones can be broken through testing the limits.

Families need to establish rules that keep children safe. Safety is always important. Very young children need a lot of help with understanding rules that keep them safe. It is the family's responsibility to keep harmful things away from children. Watch young children at all times. Older children need reminders about what is safe. For example, rules need to be established and enforced about where children play, who they play with, and what they are doing.

Families need to think about what is really important to them. Families need to talk about what is valued. What beliefs are cherished. These are the rules and limits that need to be established early and kept consistent. For example:

When young children are given clear rules, they can understand them. Show them the family rules by doing them, not just telling them. Be firm, but be kind with children. Show a child how to care for books by carefully turning the pages. Show a child where things belong. Put things away if your family believes that being neat and orderly is important. Establish rules based on what is important in your family.

Rules and limits should be clear and understood. There should not be too many, only rules that you really believe are important. If there are too many, a lot of rules might be broken and then the child will be confused about what the real rules are. The real rules should be non-negotiable, in other words, no bargaining or arguing. These are rules that relate to safety, values and beliefs that are truly important to your family. It is easy to be consistent and always enforce these rules.

Young children need much help in understanding what rules and limits are. It might seem like the family rules are always being challenged. Preschool children average about three and a half conflicts per hour. Sixteen year old children average one conflict every three days. Learning about the family rules and what the limits are is the way families help children learn about their world.

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