Despite the tendency to challenge boundaries provided by supportive adults, young children and adolescents prosper within clear and appropriate boundaries. Setting limits for children and adolescents helps to keep them safe and healthy as they are developing independent skills to do that for themselves. When fair and healthy limits are set for children, they will gradually learn to set limits for themselves. Setting appropriate limits can be challenging and takes practice. The effectiveness of limit setting often depends on the caregiver’s ability to be consistent, assertive, and clear, while at the same time avoiding unduly harsh or provocative management strategies. The fundamental distinction between harsh limit setting and supportive limit setting lies largely in the attitude and manner in which the child is addressed. R.E.S.P.E.C.T. (relaxed, empathic, specific, patient, encouraging, confident, and timely) is an excellent guide for supportive, effective limit setting.
1. Provide structure that has the ability to adapt to children’s developmental gains, needs and wants.
2. Provide young children with bed-times and awake-times that do not drastically vary over the weekends and holidays.
3. Create consistent routines for young children for clean-up time, bed-time, bathroom activities, reading, eating, and morning activities.
4. Establish and enforce curfews and “going out” rules with older children.
5. Clearly communicate possible consequences for inappropriate behavior and implement these consequences when needed.
- For example: If a child misses a curfew s/he needs to be home early all weekend.
6. Involve children in creating viable rules and consequences when developmentally appropriate.
7. Communicate personal boundaries among family members.
- For example: one child’s toys/games are kept in that child’s room, establish habit of knocking on doors that are closed, no dress-up with Mom’s jewelry, etc..
- Allow for personal space when talking/touching/interacting (i.e. an arm’s length between people).
8. Teach personal boundaries related to strangers (e.g. ways to interact with strangers vs. non-strangers).
1. Provide a classroom structure that has the ability to adapt to students’ developmental gains, needs and wants.
2. Provide pre-K and Kindergarten students with a daily nap-time that remains consistent throughout the week.
3. Create consistent routines for young students for clean-up time, reading, eating, play-time and other daily activities.
4. Establish classroom rules with your students, post them in an easy-to-see place, and refer to them often.
5. Ensure that school-wide rules are followed and enforced by students , co-workers, and administrators.
6. Clearly communicate possible consequences for inappropriate behavior and implement these when needed.
7. Include students in creating viable rules and consequences when developmentally appropriate.
8. Ensure personal boundaries are communicated and respected.
- For example: students should not access other students’ cubbies/lockers, students are not permitted to share e-mail and other computer passwords, etc.
- Encourage students to maintain personal space when talking, touching, or interacting; role model appropriate personal space.