Two types of limits we really need to teach
I don’t believe in rules in order to teach obedience. I believe that rules and limits have make sense. If rules make sense to us, we have no problem tolerating them.
The most important types of limits we need to teach, are limits for the child’s wellbeing as well as our and other people’s wellbeing.
Setting limits for the child’s wellbeing: When our kids reaches for a hot stove, we say a stern “No.” And we explain, that it’s hot and will cause pain. If they try it again, or start to cry because they don’t want to accept the no, we will still stay strong and enforce our no. These examples are easy to understand and the limits are easy to set for parents.
However there are situations, in which the negative consequences are not as immediate as they would be when touching a hot stove. That is probably one reason why some parents are having a hard time in setting such limits. However, especially with young children, we have to take on the responsibility and we need to set the limits.
The older the kids get, the more they learned the limits, the more freedom we can give them and the mare they can start to gradually take on some responsibility.
Limits I set in a certain degree for the wellbeing of my children are for example:
- Certain bedtimes to ensure they get enough sleep
- A healthy diet with limited sweets and junk foods
- Certain dangerous behaviors in play (however I mean real dangers, not hysteria!)
- Rules about how to use certain tools (like knives)
- Certain behaviors in traffic
- Rules for working in the kitchen
I think parents should not be afraid of setting such limits. It’s ok to say „no“ and it’s ok if the child gets upset about it. Depending on the age and development of your child and on the situation it can be a good idea to explain the reason for your “no”.
This is how I explain such limits to my children: “I am responsible for your wellbeing. If I allow you to do …., this is not good / healthy/ safe for you, because… That’s why I don’t allow it. I understand that you are angry at me / sad. But because I love you, I say no.” And then I stick to my “no”, even if they are really upset with me and I will not start a big discussion.
Of course there can be exceptions to rules. But I decide responsibly when I make an exception. So of course during their vacations, for special occasions or sleepovers they can stay up longer and of course they can have some sweets sometimes as long as they also eat healthy foods.
Limits for your own or other people’s wellbeing:
We all have needs. And as sweet as our child might be, sometimes his or her behavior will interfere with our needs. We need to become aware of our own needs and learn how to voice them. Let’s grow up! It is our responsibility that we and our child are doing well! We cannot make it depended on the child. We all try our best for our child. But what are we doing for our wellbeing?
At some point every child has to learn, that his or her behavior can affect others and that we all have to respect the others needs as well as they must respect our needs. But in order to teach them to respect other people’s needs, we must meet their needs and we have to be a role model and take responsibility for our needs as well.
You cannot spoil a baby!
Of course the younger the child is, the more we have to ensure to meet the child‘s needs. This implies especially for babies. Some people say, “Let the child scream, you cannot just run, because the baby is crying, you will spoil it.” But this is wrong. You cannot spoil a baby but you can teach a baby that it is worthy of love and wellbeing by being there for it and doing your best to meet the baby’s needs. If your baby doesn’t learn that it’s needs will be met and it’s wellbeing is important, how will it later be able to voice it’s needs when it has grown up?
Don’t meet the child’s needs just because some parenting book tells you how many minutes you should cuddle and how much you should speak to your baby. As long as you are mentally healthy, interact with your child the way your loving instincts tell you too. (If you do suffer from a serious mental illness like depression, please do seek professional help, because this might actually really influence the bonding to your child in a negative way).
However even with babies there comes a time, any parent just really needs a break.
And then we must see, how we can get this break (of course without neglecting the child). It won‘t help our child if we have a break down at some point, because we did not take responsibility for our own wellbeing.
Parents who had a sick baby or a baby with belly cramps or just a baby that screamed and cried a lot, will know what I mean. Caring for a baby is wonderful but it can also be very, very demanding. So even when our baby is very young, we need to take responsibility for our own wellbeing as well as for our babies. Tips and tricks for getting a break with a baby
The older the child grows, the easier it will become to explain our needs and ask them to respect the needs of others.
Limits I set for example for my own or other people’s wellbeing often concerning these topics:
- Little “Time outs” for myself when I need a break
- Dangerous behaviors in play
- Free time versus chores
- Respecting other people’s conversations
- Behavior during meals
Even when I set rules about material things that shall not be ruined or about tidiness or hygiene, it always comes down to respecting the other’s wellbeing.
How can that be? Well for example, when my kids make a big mess in their rooms or in our living room while playing, and then just leave it like that, this mess is annoying me. It is stressing me to see everything lying on the floor and when I want to vacuum it is causing extra work, because I have to pick it all up. So I respect their need to play freely and make a mess, but I also set the limit, that my kids have to tidy up after playing. It’s not because everything has to always be perfectly in order. It’s because when I want and need to relax I need a certain degree of tidiness around me and don’t have the time, nerves and energy to clean up after them. So I tell my kids, that I can give them their freedom to play as long as they respect my need for some order and clean up after playing.
It’s the same about how we treat things. I can explain that certain things cost money and that their mom and dad work hard to earn the money to buy them. So I teach them to be careful with things, because we worked for them and we cannot just work more and more just because we weren’t careful with our things and have to buy new ones. We do want to be able to spend some time with them as well, don’t we?