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School Shares Tips on Setting Limits for Children

Libertyville Elementary School District 70 held a workshop showcasing the benefits of setting restrictions for children.

How do you set appropriate limits to balance love and affection with rules and discipline for your children?

Those were just some of the point discussed at Wednesday’s “Limit Setting With Your Child” workshop hosted by .

Four district psychologists and social workers — Gwen Travelstead, Leah Shepard, Abby Vaughan, and Ashley Batson — presented the workshop at . They explained that setting limits for children is important because they help ensure safety, promote respect, and help children feel secure.

“When kids are younger, we set all of these limits for them to help them develop what that structure feels like,” Batson said. “And hopefully as they get older, we continue to set limits, but they’re going to start to learn that self-regulation, and what limits can do for them. It does give a sense of security and comfort.”

Set Clear, Positive Limits

The presenters urged the attendees to set limits that are clear, consistent, reasonable, proactive, and positive, using some of the district’s tactics as examples.

“We try to state everything positively so that children understand that this is how we’re expected to be, instead of saying, ‘Don’t do this,’ ” Batson said. “If you say, ‘Don’t run’ all the time, you’re never giving the alternative of, ‘You should be walking in the hall.’ ”

Use Creative Consequences

Combating problems with creative consequences was another tactic discussed in the workshop. Shepard explained that parents should leave emotion out when giving consequences and should use natural consequences, such as a child being hungry if they refuse to eat lunch, when they apply.

“For the child who won’t go to bed, setting a timer to let them know they have so much time before bedtime, so they can hear that timer go off,” Batson said. “Also, if they don’t go to bed at the right time tonight, then tomorrow night, it will be 10 minutes earlier, and every night will be 10 minutes earlier.”

Suspend Privileges Until Work is Done

For parents who have trouble getting their children to do homework, the four women suggested suspending some of their privileges until their homework is completed, and give them the same amount of free time that they spend on their homework.

“If you have a child who is capable, and you know they are, of doing their homework, but they really want you right there by their side, since you’re giving up your time, give them a chore that you’re missing out on,” Vaughan said. “So let’s say you decide you’re helping them, but you should be unloading the dishwasher. You tell them, ‘I can help you right now, but then you’re going to need to unload the dishwasher for me later, when we’re finished.’”

To get children to clean up their toys, those in the workshop suggested putting any toys that aren’t picked up out of reach, suspending play dates, or losing the privilege of using the messy room until it’s clean.

“If they complain that they’re too tired to clean up, they can go to their room, rest, and once they have their energy back, they can come and clean up their toys,” Vaughan said.

The workshop will be presented again at 1 p.m. Friday at the Center on Lake Street.

Quick Tips

1. Use positive limits. Instead of saying, “Don’t,” tell children what they should be doing.

2. Use natural consequences. For example, they could be hungry later if they refuse to eat.

3. Suspend privileges until work is done. For example, no play dates until toys are put away.

4. Share responsibilities. If the child wants help with homework, he or she has to help the parent with chores.

5.   Set clear limits. If the child refuses to go to bed, set a timer so he or she knows exactly how long before bedtime. If the child doesn’t comply, make bed time earlier.

Kenneth Goldberg, Ph.D. February 03, 2012 at 12:59 PM
I think the most important limit to set is the time limit, and that means that children need to be told when to stop doing homework, not just when to start doing homework. However, for parents to do this, they need to know that their children will not get unduly penalized for work not doing after putting the time in, and they need to know that they are the ones with the final authority in their homes. Kenneth Goldberg, Ph.D. www.thehomeworktrap.com

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