Educator, Rowena Matti stresses the importance of setting rules and limits in early childhood. “Children are never too young to understand and comply with rules,” she opines. Kids come out well behaved when given structure in both their daily routine and behavioral structure. Reasonable limits and rules are meant to protect kids and keep them safe. Moreover, these help children learn more about self-control.
Communicating the rules to your child Communicating these behavior boundaries to your kids is a very important step to helping them understand and learn to resolve conflicts later in life. “When out-of-bounds behavior occurs, move the child to another setting,” Albrecht and Miller write in their book Infant and Toddler Development. When addressing an infant or toddler, you need to combine frequent verbal reminders with physical action. If your tot keeps on rolling his toy truck on your dining table, take him by the hand and explain to him that he will have to find another place where he can play with his truck without ruining the furniture.
Rules need to be reasonable and consistent Defining and making rules and limits explicitly to a child is not a set formula. It will all differ in every household and family. Remember: effective limits are reasonable and not punitive, well communicated, enforceable, and consistent. Don’t set a rule, limit, or consequence unless you’re going to be consistent in enforcing it. Children are more likely to comply with the rules if these are accompanied by reasons. You don’t need more than one reason to back up one rule. Just be brief and direct: “Put your toys back to the storage box. If you leave them lying on the floor, someone is likely to walk over them and slip.”
Sources: • Rowena Matti, program director, Galileo Enrichment Learning Program, Inc. • Infant and Toddler Development, by Kay Albrecht and Linda Miller