How to Set Limits for Kids: For Parents, Teachers, and Other Caregivers

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Limit digital media for your youngest family members. Avoid digital media for toddlers younger than 18 to 24 months other than video chatting. For children 18 to 24 months, watch digital media with them because they learn from watching and talking with you.

Reasons Why It Is Important to Set Limits With Kids

Limit screen use for preschool children, ages 2 to 5, to just 1 hour a day of high-quality programming. Create tech-free zones. Keep family mealtimes, other family and social gatherings, and children's bedrooms screen free. Turn off televisions that you aren't watching, because background TV can get in the way of face-to-face time with kids. Recharge devices overnight—outside your child bedroom to help avoid the temptation to use them when they should be sleeping. These changes encourage more family time, healthier eating habits, and better sleep. Don't use technology as an emotional pacifier.

Media can be very effective in keeping kids calm and quiet, but it should not be the only way they learn to calm down. Children need to be taught how to identify and handle strong emotions, come up with activities to manage boredom, or calm down through breathing, talking about ways to solve the problem, and finding other strategies for channeling emotions.


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More than 80, apps are labeled as educational, but little research has demonstrated their actual quality. Products pitched as "interactive" should require more than "pushing and swiping. It's OK for your teen to be online. Online relationships are part of typical adolescent development. Social media can support teens as they explore and discover more about themselves and their place in the grown-up world. Just be sure your teen is behaving appropriately in both the real and online worlds.

Many teens need to be reminded that a platform's privacy settings do not make things actually "private" and that images, thoughts, and behaviors teens share online will instantly become a part of their digital footprint indefinitely. Keep lines of communication open and let them know you're there if they have questions or concerns. Warn children about the importance of privacy and the dangers of predators and sexting. They may also not know about or choose not to use privacy settings, and they need to be warned that sex offenders often use social networking, chat rooms, e-mail, and online gaming to contact and exploit children.

Remember: Kids will be kids. Kids will make mistakes using media. Try to handle errors with empathy and turn a mistake into a teachable moment.

But some indiscretions, such as sexting, bullying, or posting self-harm images, may be a red flag that hints at trouble ahead. Parents must observe carefully their children's behaviors and, if needed, enlist supportive professional help, including the family pediatrician. Media and digital devices are an integral part of our world today. The benefits of these devices, if used moderately and appropriately, can be great.

But, research has shown that face-to-face time with family, friends, and teachers plays a pivotal and even more important role in promoting children's learning and healthy development. Keep the face-to-face up front, and don't let it get lost behind a stream of media and tech.

You may be trying to access this site from a secured browser on the server. Please enable scripts and reload this page. They give you advance warning that your child is feeling disconnected:. Earnestly trying to get him to do things differently provokes protest and unhappy feelings. We often think of Setting Limits as a means of enforcing rules.

Conventional wisdom has it that children, like puppies, need parents to be clear and consistent with them.

Learn from Mistakes—Including Your Own

But children are not puppies. Parenting flows more sweetly when we move from being an enforcer to a first responder. So first off, scan the scene. If not, then you can take a moment to decide whether or not a limit makes sense. Most parents say or yell the limit. Instead, bring the limit.

Move in.

Daily reminder: Take care of yourself

Make swift but respectful physical contact. Slice through his misbehavior with a physical limit and as little emotional static as possible. This is the crown jewel of the three steps. If he has flipped out because his sister marked up his drawing paper, be glad for this opportunity to let him offload feelings. It seems to me that children sometimes use a small upset to test the waters. The most common mistake we make in setting limits is to hope against hope that the upset we see brewing right in front of us will go away.

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So we tense up in advance of dinner, expect a miracle, and feel terribly discouraged and angry when their kicking begins. Setting limits well is at least fifty percent planning!

A few minutes of cuddling, hanging out, or horsing around the minute things start to head south can change the whole day. He would much rather be in touch with you than on his way to battle. Our children are primed for love, respect, and justice. You may have to postpone some items on your to-do list while you work with your child to whittle down the backlog.

But the time you spend listening and setting limits will yield freedom from trouble in the future.

Three Steps to Setting Effective Limits With Your Kids

Your child will become closer to you, freer of hurt, and more soundly secure. Your email address will not be published. This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed. Our mission is to provide parents with insights, skills, and support they need to listen to and connect with their children in a way that allows each child to thrive. We do this through easy-to-access support , classes , and literature. We offer vital information to help parents deal with issues from children biting and kids' temper tantrums to learning issues and bullying on playgrounds and in schools.

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