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Change Limits as Your Child Grows

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Trees that bend do a lot better in storms than their more brittle, rigid cousins. Life, and parenting, are never predictable, and flexibility is one of the greatest strengths you can build in yourself. Firmness is not the same as rigidity. Don't enforce limits just because once upon a time you decided it was a limit—you may need to reevaluate, or provide exceptions in cases of need.

Behave Yourself!

Don't create arbitrary or unhelpful limits. Limits should be as logical as consequences.

It's a Good Idea!

Snake skin doesn't stretch, which is why snakes shed their skins as they grow. One day the old skin simply splits (rrrippp!!!), and the snake wriggles on out of it, wearing a clean, shiny new skin underneath. Sometimes parents and kids don't always realize a limit is too tight until it suddenly, and with force, splits open. Growing up isn't always smooth and ripple-free.

There's a Limit to Limits!

You can't raise a resourceful child if your limits are too tight. Limits are vital and needed. Too many limits, though, can make a child feel crunched and, well, limited. How will you know if you are being reasonable, or if the limits you are setting are too extreme? Easy. Watch your child's reactions:

  • Resistance and grumbling are normal. No self-respecting child is going to let you know how much she craves limits.
  • Continued outrage or full-scale rebellion over a limit are your clues that something else is going on—perhaps your limit is too stringent and unjust. It may not be age or developmentally appropriate anymore. Are the limits expanding as she grows? Or perhaps your reason for the limit, or the values behind it, haven't been communicated clearly enough. Are they explicit? Are the purposes of the limit clear?

Not Sure About a Limit?

Tales from the Parent Zone

Marissa doesn't understand why you won't let her walk home from school by herself. “I'm old enough. You don't trust me! You never let me be independent! You're punishing me for growing up!” she cries, and ditches her escorts. Marissa doesn't understand that you do value her independence and respect her growth—you've imposed the limit because you are worried about the safety of your neighborhood. Perhaps you can demonstrate your trust and respect by loosening the limits in other areas—and having a heart-to-heart with Marissa about your concerns.

Is it time to expand the limit? How can you be sure?

  • Keep evaluating your child, keep looking at who your child is this month, keep on talking.
  • Ask your child what limits would feel appropriate. After you get past the initial part of the conversation (“No limits, Dad!”), you'll probably get a few ideas. If your child takes part in the limit-setting, he's more likely to live comfortably within their boundaries. (Kinda like the difference between your building a fence around your property for privacy, and somebody else fencing you in.)
  • Check out Junior's friends' limits. Let's get clear, here, “Everybody else gets to,” is not a reason to let Junior do something. Find out though—it's purely informational. You'll discover what other parents consider developmentally appropriate, and why Junior may be pushing for a change.
  • Do your research. Hit the library and go get overwhelmed by the sheer number of parenting books. You'll discover some vital information from child development experts. You'll also learn that everybody has an opinion, that most opinions are a matter of opinion, and that you can trust your own opinion.
  • Talk with your child's teacher. She's one of your parenting partners. She's involved in your child's life, and she'll see your child from a completely different perspective than you do. Involved parents are the number-one factor for how well a child will do in school. Don't wait until conference time or until the principal's office calls—get involved! Call for a conference today!


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Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to a Well-Behaved Child © 1999 by Ericka Lutz. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

To order this book visit Amazon's web site or call 1-800-253-6476.


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