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Dos And Don’ts Of Setting Limits With Children

Fern Weis August 2022

Parent Coach for Moms of Teens: Fern Weis

Limits. We parents sometimes cringe at setting them.

We anticipate resistance and arguing and that battle for control. Let’s look at what limits are and are not and how to approach them.

Limits Are Measurable:

Limits are measurable. They are usually part of your house rules. They give structure to our lives and are about the other people.

“With limits and rules come consequences.”

(Boundaries are about you. They protect you and your needs, and keep you from doing too much for others at your expense.)

Whether your child is 5, 15, or 25, it’s appropriate and often necessary to have limits. Talk about them, negotiate them, even with the youngest children. (You remember giving your little one’s choices about what to wear, right?)

This prepares your children for self-advocacy and negotiating. It builds confidence and self-awareness as well.

Some kids are going to fight you. You know, the ones who are ‘natural-born lawyers’ who know instinctively how to plead their case. Make sure they do it respectfully. Others need to be gently led to speak up for themselves.

With limits and rules come consequences. Uh-oh, we’re cringing again!

4 Examples Of Limits And Rules:

  1. When and where homework is done
  2. Curfew
  3. Spending money
  4. Driving and cars

It’s important to give your children advanced notice about those consequences. It’s also critical to know whether or not you’ll be able to enforce that consequence.

“And then there are the children who push the edges.”

Some kids are compliant and wouldn’t think of doing what they’re not supposed to do. (I was one of them, a black belt in people-pleasing.)

And then there are the children who push the edges. They have h-i-s-t-o-r-y. Setting limits with these children can be challenging. Talk about the pattern you’re seeing, in a neutral tone. Leave your frustration and worry out of it.

The Consequence:

Make sure the consequence is reasonable and enforceable. Don’t make the phone or the car the go-to punishment. You can even ask your child for help. Sometimes they come up with a consequence that really makes sense.

Do a check-in once in a while to review how the limit is or isn’t working. It could be that the reason for the limit is not an issue anymore. Or it still is. Then it’s time to review the whole process. Why continue with something that’s not working?

Setting limits with children can be an opportunity to be your child’s best teacher and their coach. When you change how you show up, the people around you begin to change. Try it out. Let me know how it goes.

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Fern Weis

About the Author:

Fern Weis is a Parent Empowerment Coach for Moms of Teens and a Family Recovery Coach. She’s also a wife, former middle school teacher, and the parent of two adult children who taught her more about herself than she ever could have imagined.  

Fern partners with moms of teens and young adults, privately and in groups. She helps them grow their confidence to build strong relationships and emotionally healthier kids who become successful adults. She knows first-hand that when parents do the work, the possibilities for change are limitless; that it’s never too late to start; and you don’t have to do it alone. Learn more about Fern at www.fernweis.com.