Parenting Guide

Parenting Guide

Setting Limits and Boundaries

It’s About Teaching, Not Punishing

“Call them rules or call them limits, good ones, I believe, have this in common: they serve reasonable purposes; they are practical and within a child’s capability; they are consistent; and they are an expression of loving concern.”


  • Why are Limits and Boundaries Important?

    Loving your child means having to set limits. You can’t let a two-year-old rule your house. You may cringe at the idea because you don’t like struggling with your child, but clear rules help your child feel safe and learn self-regulation. Your child’s ability to say no, control his impulses, and delay gratification will have…

  • How to Establish Limits and Boundaries

    • Always take your child’s temperament and developmental level into account. Use simple language for younger children, and consider whether your expectations are reasonable for your child’s age and stage. • Make your limits clear, firm, and consistent. Then your child will know what to expect. • Stay calm. Speak and act calmly, even if…

  • More Tips for Parents

    • Match your voice to the moment. Use a tone of voice that matches the limit you are trying to set for your child. Children are sensitive to tone of voice. Don’t use a strong tone for setting a minor limit – it can confuse your child. • Tell, don’t ask. Use statements rather than…

  • About Time-Outs

    • Don’t introduce time-outs too soon. Only introduce time-outs to very young children when necessary. Time-outs can create fear and anxiety in very young children, so you should always reinforce connection rather than separation. • Do not use time-outs to punish. A time-out should not be a punishment, but instead a time to pause. This…

  • Resources for Further Reading

    Pacella, B. L. (n.d.). Limit setting / discipline. Retrieved from Poarch, J.E. (1990). Limits: The keystone of emotional growth. Muncie, IN: Accelerated Development Inc. Runkel, H. E. (2008). Screamfree parenting: The revolutionary approach to raising your kids by keeping your cool. New York, NY: Broadway Books

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