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Why children need rules and boundaries

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					Why children need rules and boundaries
As unpopular as they are, rules and boundaries teach children the difference between
right and wrong and how to get along with others. “Don’t hit other children,” or “Ask
politely, don’t grab,” or “No going out after supper on school nights”. Boundaries
help older children to be confident and responsible adults.

How do you set boundaries?
Use child-friendly language. Use examples from the child’s own life to explain why
rules are made. Keep it simple, clear and honest. As the child gets older you can start
to introduce ideas such as personal responsibility. Use the ideas of uBuntu and
cultural values to help explain why certain boundaries exist.

Use eye contact. Don’t call out your instructions from another room if you are really
serious about wanting things done. If you’re not that serious, just don’t bother. Wait
until you get into the room with the child, get down to his level, make sure you get
into eye contact and he is looking at you with his full attention.

Set age-appropriate boundaries. The rules you make should be suitable for your
child’s age. For example you can’t expect a 16 year old to be in bed at 8 p.m. every
night. Make sure that what you are asking of your child is fair. Can your young child
physically do what you are asking of him or her? If not, your child will get frustrated
and be less likely to listen to you in the future.

Use humour. A good laugh helps break the tension. Instead of backing the child into
a corner, you let him know that this is nothing serious. “I’m in control so you are
safe. We can work this out, I love you.”

Mean what you say. Your child must know that you are not making an empty threat.
If you explain what the outcome will be if she does a certain thing, and then don’t act
on it, you will have less authority the next time. The message of your body language
should be that you have full confidence that your child is going to do what you just
said. Don’t nag, lecture or preach. Use one word reminders. Always carry out
consequences without emotions and without discussion.

Know what your child values. Pay attention to what your child cares most about,
for example a toy or a TV programme. Use these things to teach them the
consequences of breaking boundaries.

Don’t keep changing the rules. Be consistent at all times. Rather have a few
important rules and stick to them.

Tips for…
1-6 year olds. Safety rules should be taught early. Young children learn how to
behave when they play with other children. They are also learning how to relate to
adults. These kids will copy everything you do, so teach them by doing the right
thing. Use examples to explain everything. Stay calm when setting and repeating
rules as a scared child does not listen well.

7-12 year olds. At this age, they start to notice that other parents have different
boundaries. Explain that each home has its own set of rules and that they should
respect rules of the school or other homes when visiting. Set boundaries and rules
that are clear and easy to understand. Don’t make too many rules. Stick to important
ones such as no insults or swearing.

Teens. Involve them in a family meeting when setting or reviewing rules. Teenagers
need some independence, but not too much because they are at great risk at this stage
of their lives. Make yourself clear on matters like dating, sex, parties, drinking and
drugs. The best way to do this is to tell them the good and the bad of the issue. Praise
them for the good choices they have made. Reassuring them that they are smart and
responsible can help them to make better choices in their lives as they grow up.

Pinky Makgamatha
ASHA Pre-School Association.

Sources: www.parentingskills.co.za, www.drphil.co.za

				
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