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Setting boundaries for kids

Setting boundaries for kids

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All kids need limits. From not throwing food onto the floor to obeying a curfew, it doesn’t matter what age your children are, they need to know where boundaries lie. But as parents, it can be difficult to judge whether the rules we make are too strict and assess how much truth there is in protests of “but so-and-so’s mum lets her do it!”

So how do you know what boundaries are reasonable and how do you cope with sticking to them, despite seemingly endless complaints that “it’s not fair”?

Start early

Trying to set limits for a teenager who has up until now had pretty much free reign, can be difficult to say the least. Start setting limits on behaviour from a young age and you’ll find it easier to manage in the long run as it’s something parents and kids are both used to. It’s never too late though and if you’re only just starting out, you may have your work cut out but it will be worth it in the end.

Assess your values

Consider the values you would like to instil in your family and use them to help make the rules. For example, if you wish to encourage studious behaviour then not being able to go out until all homework is completed might be a rule you’d impose. Alternatively, you may be anti-drink and smoking, in which case you’ll make clear your expectations around staying away from them.

Act as a team

Setting boundaries for kidsWhen setting boundaries for kids, it’s important that both parents are in agreement with each other and know exactly what is going on. This avoids kids playing their parents off against one another or one parent reacting indifferently because they weren’t aware there had been a change in the rules. Back each other up and you’ll find that imposing boundaries becomes a whole lot easier.

Talk to other parents

If you’re concerned that you’re being a bit too strict then have a chat with the parents of your children’s friends and see what they think. You might find they are a bit more relaxed about some things or it might be that actually their child isn’t allowed to do any of that stuff either. If you don’t feel you know friend’s parents well enough then there are plenty of online forums (including a very friendly one here at The Working Parent!) where you can log in to chat with and ask advice from other parents.

Don’t take it personally…

…or at least don’t show that you do. Kids can play up in order to get attention or a reaction from their parents or other figures of authority. It natural for teenagers to rebel against their parents and this often happens through pushing boundaries. Even if something they’ve done wrong has hurt you deeply, try to focus on how their behaviour is hurting them and why they need to do better in future.


Be sure to explain the reasoning behind the rules and limits you set. Kids are much more likely to adhere to them if they understand why they matter. Make boundaries clear but also ensure that the consequences of breaking them are understood.









About Maria Brett

About Maria Brett

Maria is a freelance writer with over 10 years' experience producing content for a variety of publications and websites. When not working or looking after her two gorgeous sons, she can usually be found playing flugelhorn in a brass band, helping out at her local hospital radio station, shouting at the television while watching Formula 1, at the cinema or plonked on the couch with a cold glass of wine.

Website: Maria Brett

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