Posted November 4, 2016
Setting boundaries and giving choices helps keep children safe, family experts advise. It’s also a good way to teach children important problem-solving skills and healthy habits they’ll use throughout life. Here are five tips for setting and maintaining rules:
1. Set clear rules and consequences – It’s natural for children to question restrictions that limit their behavior. Their responses may lead to power struggles that can be physically exhausting, but avoid the temptation to give in. Set consequences that fit the child and the situation and stick to them.
2. Give choices – Asking a child to complete homework or chores while he or she is playing on a digital device, for example, could lead to a tantrum or fight. Avoid the confrontation by providing choices in advance, such as 10 minutes of screen time after completing a homework assignment or folding laundry. This teaches children how to make choices and budget their time.
3. Keep calm – Anticipate that your child may balk at completing chores, finishing homework or going to bed at a set time. If they choose not to do what you’ve asked, don’t get angry or argue. Calmly remind them of their responsibilities and the consequences for not following through. This approach also teaches kids how to cope and communicate more peacefully.
4. Avoid focus on fairness – Boundaries and choices should be determined by the child’s age and situation. Don’t allow siblings to compare the rules they have to follow, such as bedtime schedules or time spent with friends. Teach children that each person has boundaries and choices, and they’re not always equal.
5. Monitor social media activities – Most children have access to a smartphone, electronic reader, computer or hand-held gaming device. Set family rules for using these devices, such as:
- Turn off devices at mealtime, during school hours or at bedtime.
- Require that kids accept their parents’ requests to follow and friend them on Facebook, for example. Know the people they connect with during the day.
- Communicate passwords. Parents need to check sites kids visit and set content limitations as needed.
- Show respect. Both parents and kids should ask permission before posting pictures and information online about their activities.