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Parenting Style and Kids’ Limits: Drawing the Line

Unlock your kid’s potential: Empower independence with our parenting style guide. Learn how to set boundaries for a confident, responsible child.

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Author: Author portrait Marko Juhant
Posted: 12/06/23

In shaping your parenting style, you frequently seek ways to foster your child’s learning without overburdening them with challenges.

So how do you strike the balance? Let’s explore.

How much can your child handle? 

Well, the simplest answer would be: As much as you get them used to. You can’t become a maestro without ever touching an instrument. Your kid’s ability to handle tasks is pretty much the same – you’ve got to let them practise to become proficient.

Want your kid to handle more? Give them some work!

It’s like sneaking in some spinach in their beloved spaghetti sauce. The best way to give them a taste of responsibility is by folding it into daily household tasks. It’s learning, but with a side of life’s realities – and they won’t even see it coming!

Instead of letting your kid watch TV while you’re tidying up and cooking, have them join you.

Think of it like gifting them a backstage pass to the show of life. With each task they undertake, they’re not just ticking off a chore – they’re pocketing invaluable experiences.

It’s also a great way for them to learn new skills and adapt to changes, sort of like a mini life boot camp!

Now, some tasks may need to be tweaked according to your child’s age and abilities. For example, when washing dishes, you might need to provide a stool for them to reach the sink. Or when washing the car, maybe use a less aggressive shampoo in case it gets into their eyes.

If your kid helps you with painting, let them paint the part of the wall within their reach, and you take care of the rest. The same goes for cleaning shower walls. Think of it like being a superhero team with your kid. You’re both taking turns, sharing tasks, and working together to save the day – just like Batman and Robin!

Kids can manage even more demanding and less fun tasks if you give them a chance to learn. Hanging and drying laundry, for example, might seem hard at first, and yes, their hands might ache, and sometimes the wind might mess things up. But these experiences are invaluable. They’re like tiny life lessons about the ups and downs in life.

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Remember, kids will do what you check, not necessarily what you expect.

Kids don’t need constant supervision, but they do need some guidance.

If you give them a task and they think you might not check how they’ve done it, they’ll probably test the waters to see what happens if they don’t do it. It’s kind of like poking a beehive with a stick – they’re just trying to figure out how things work.

Allowing your child to make decisions and take on age-appropriate responsibilities fosters their development into an independent child. It’s like teaching them to ride a bike, once they get the hang of it, they’re off on their own.

This approach positively impacts their self-esteem, as they’ll rely less on others for help and direction, make decisions more easily, and even take the initiative more comfortably.

These traits will also help them achieve better school performance and make it easier to connect with their peers.

When to set boundaries?

Well, it’s equally important to give your child opportunities to learn new things, and set clear boundaries so they understand and respect them.

Most kids have an understanding of what’s allowed and what’s not. But kids are explorers. Although they know the basic rules, their curiosity often tempts them to push the boundaries, just to see what’s on the other side.

If a child doesn’t have clear boundaries, and isn’t taught to respect them, it could potentially impact their overall development.

Without boundaries, kids might:

  • Act impulsively;
  • Respond disrespectfully;
  • Endanger their own and others’ safety;
  • Struggle to form relationships;
  • Find it difficult to make responsible decisions.

One effective way of setting boundaries is to give commands for essential things. This means not asking or motivating the child for these tasks, but expecting them to follow your instructions.

Think of setting boundaries as drawing a treasure map for your child. Your values are the landmarks guiding them. These boundaries form a safe space, much like a playground, where they can explore, grow, and still stay safe, helping them shape their own identity and moral compass.

Areas where you should give commands and expect obedience within your home include:

  • Personal hygiene;
  • Getting up in the morning;
  • Appropriate table manners;
  • Respectful interactions with family members;
  • Helping with household chores;
  • Becoming independent in tasks they can do themselves (like tying shoelaces, making their bed, or doing homework).

It’s also crucial to teach your child to obey your commands outside the house, especially traffic safety. Outdoors, your command of “STOP” becomes their safety net. Train them to freeze when they hear it. This single word could be the lifesaver that prevents a potential disaster.

For stubborn kids, consistent reinforcement and explaining the consequences can make this command more impactful.

Beyond the home, it’s important to establish clear boundaries in various aspects of your child’s life. Consider their social circle – who they hang out with, their involvement in kindergarten or school activities, and their growing independence in tasks they can handle on their own.

Set boundaries for electronic device usage, too. If they’re only using it for entertainment, there’s a risk they could become addicted.

This addiction can sneak in because screens have a way of numbing our senses. They bombard us with powerful signals like vibrant colours, endless sounds, and flashy distractions. It’s like a captivating whirlwind that can easily draw a child in and make them lose track of time and balance in the real world.

Children using electronic devices often get used to these strong signals to such an extent that they no longer notice weaker ones.

I recommend introducing a phone to a child when they have shown a level of responsibility, for example when they’re able to independently prepare four different Sunday meals. These meals should consist of soup, a main course, a side dish, and salad.

Once they can do this, they have enough discipline and maturity to handle a phone responsibly.

By setting clear boundaries for your child, you’ll not only encourage more appropriate behaviour, but you’ll also help them develop self-discipline.

Clear boundaries and structure give a child a sense of stability, as they’ll know exactly what they can and can’t do, and what to expect if they don’t adhere to the rules.

By respecting and observing the boundaries you set, your child will become more responsible and ultimately, more confident.

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What’s next?

I hope this article has shed some light on the burning questions we often ask ourselves as parents, “How much can kids handle?” and “When should we set those all-important boundaries?”

But hey, let me ask you something. Have you ever been caught in the middle, unsure whether a task is just right or a tad too challenging for your child? Or maybe you struggle with finding the right balance when it comes to setting those limits?

Guess what? You’re not alone! The journey of parenting is full of dilemmas, each influenced by our distinct parenting styles. So, why not join the conversation and share your thoughts with me in the comments section below the article? 

Let me know how I can best support you on this wonderful journey.

Warm regards,

Marko Juhant

About the Author

Marko Juhant

I’m a special education teacher, specialised in the area of behavioural, emotional and personality disorders, a former principal, a father, and a best-selling author of books on parenting, for which I advocate a hands-on and practical approach. I have been educating children for more than 40 years and I give more than 500 lectures every year in kindergartens, schools and other institutions.

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