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Why Are You Afraid to Set Limits for Your Son or Daughter?

    “Why set limits? It’s the summer.” --Jane
    “No limits seem to stick.” --Jack
    “My husband is the only person who stops the children from fighting.” --Rhonda
    “I need my husband’s help to get our daughter to listen.” --Leslie
    “My wife and I cannot agree on what limits to establish for our son. My wife wants the whole house clean. I say, just his room.” --David
    “My child’s executive functioning is underdeveloped, so he can’t listen.” --Arlene

I hear one excuse after another for the chaos that gifted children create in their homes, which carries over to school and homework. I wonder, Why can’t kids listen to their parents? Is this disrespectful behavior a sign of our times? When I was growing up I was afraid to be blatantly disobedient. My parents never said, “I am saying this for the last time.” We listened to their first direction. There was really no advice to get from the experts. Old fashioned ideas were revered.

My children were not as well behaved as my sister and I were. My husband and I had more child-friendly rules and expectations. Children were listened to more readily in the 1980s than in the 1950s. Still, we had a structure that was followed. Sometimes rules were broken and then the rules were evaluated as worthy or not appropriate. My children were eager to trick me if possible. There was give and take but there were also some lines that were not crossed. My kids did their homework and did not miss school.
In today’s world some kids don’t follow the family rules. Families often do not have rules to follow. With no structure kids can become truly out of control. “Who is the boss at your house?” is a concern for grandparents and teachers. Parenting experts come up with new strategies every day to help set limits for the strong willed or free spirited youngster. Parenting now has developed into a profession that involves a complicated education. Some current subjects include:
    1.  How to talk so children will listen.
    2.  Behavior modification.
    3.  Modeling appropriate behaviors.
    4.  Learning-style differences.
    5.  Decisions in school choice.
    6.  Disadvantages of helicopter parenting.
    7.  Nutritional strategies for healthy kids.
    8.  Childhood psychological and neurological problems, such as ADD and autistic spectrum disorder.
Here is what I think in a more down-to-earth psychological tone. Children and teenagers thrive in a calm and nurturing home environment. Ongoing and productive communication will lead to a compassionate relationship between parent and child. Power struggles are common and predictable and normal. There are many ways to avoid a stalemate between you and your son or daughter. Unresolved fighting will lead to resentment and fear. Misunderstandings are a normal part of the parent-child dynamic, which can be managed with success. There are positive results of child-friendly limits because structure creates a sense of predictability for children. When children know what to expect they are more productive, creative, able to listen to teachers, and respect authority. When expectations are not followed and consequences are reasonable and not overwhelming, children and their parents grow closer. Fear-based interactions are curtailed significantly.
Families who are chaotic by personality or circumstances provide almost no structure for their children. Consequences and rules are made haphazardly and are easily broken. Fear of one another on both sides will flourish. There is continual arguing between parent and child. The anything-goes family has children and parents who lack self-esteem and a sense of purpose in their day to day lives. A sense of meaningful purpose is absent from the core structure of the family. No matter what your circumstances your child needs space to grow.
Your best option as a parent if you want to raise emotionally healthy children is to understand your fear of setting limits. Ask yourself the following questions. Am I afraid that:
    1.  My children won’t love me?
    2.  I will feel like a mean parent like my parents?
    3.  My children will not be able to be free spirits?
    4.  I don’t have time or patience to establish a routine and predictability?
    5.  I don’t know how to do it, because I grew up with too much freedom or too much fear?

Try to conquer your fear by seeing it for what it is. Is my fear realistic or based on unresolved issues from my childhood? For example, if you were a latch-key child you may want to give your child  too much attention. While this may be helpful for you in many ways, too much attention can make a child feel helpless. Decide what your child needs. Give yourself what you need.

Decide if you are over-reacting to your own fears (in your child). Eliminate as much of your fear-based behavior as possible. If you are afraid your child will not be safe then make sure that security is in place and then give them a chance to thrive on their own.

Posted on Sunday, July 23, 2017 at 09:34PM by Registered CommenterBarbara Klein, Ph.D., Ed.D. | CommentsPost a Comment

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