What Would You Ask a Child Development Expert? Part Six

What Would You Ask a Child Development Expert?

In the first family survey that was sent out, we asked you to tell us what you would ask a child development expert if given the opportunity. We received some great (and challenging) questions that we want to share and help answer using the knowledge and expertise that we have here at UCCC. This is the sixth installment in this series. If you want to catch up on the last five posts, you can find them here, here, here, here, and here.

The topic we are tackling this month is limits/boundaries.

“It is NOT a parent’s job to make children happy. And in fact, it’s not good for kids to be happy all the time. Moments of temporary sadness or frustration teach children how to deal with disappointment and the natural and inevitable ups and downs of life.” Karen Stephens, Parenting Exchange, 2007.

As a first-time mom, this statement really rang true for me. I know that I am going to struggle with setting limits and boundaries (and the tantrums that follow when a limit is set). I have already watched my child fall on the floor and cry, because I took something away from her. In that moment, all I wanted was for my child to be happy and not crying on the floor.

As someone who has been in the field of early childhood development, I also know the importance of setting limits and helping shape children’s resilience and ability to cope with what is to come. I understand the importance of preparing children for life, not for them to be happy every moment of every day.

It is our job to love our children and setting limits and boundaries is one way that we show our children love. It is not an easy job, but here are some tips to hopefully make it easier.

  • Say what you mean and mean what you say. Expectations should be concrete, understandable, and developmentally appropriate. We often say ‘be good’ or ‘act right,’ but these are too vague for young children. Children need to hear exactly what they need to do, such as ‘I expect you to walk next to me in the grocery store.’
  • Teach and model appropriate behavior. If you want your child to play with sand appropriately. Get in the sand box and show them how to play with the sand without kicking or throwing it.
  • Help children develop empathy by explaining reasons behind expectations and empathizing with your child’s feelings. For example, “Sand is never for throwing. It hurts others to have sand thrown in their eyes or ears” or “I know you are having fun and it is hard to leave, but it is time to go home.”
  • Think about appropriate consequences ahead of time, communicate them, and follow through. Consequences should be logical (related to the deed) or natural when possible, should not shame or humiliate the child, and should be appropriate for the age and understanding of the child. For example, if you throw sand, you will have to leave the sandbox. Follow through, even when your child begs for another chance or tries to engage you in a different struggle by talking back.

This is just the tip of the iceberg when faced with the enormous task of helping our children become successful individuals.

Karen Stephens has written a number of brief articles that really speak to the task of guiding children’s behavior. Ask your teachers, Ms. Jessica, or Ms. Faosat if you would like to read some of these articles.

Post by Jessica Sims