“Setting Limits” sounds an awful lot like a previous topic we had: boundaries. To keep from repeating myself, I am going to focus on setting limits with children, whereas boundaries are more of what I set for myself.
So, who am I to tell you what limits to set on your child? Well, I am the person with whom you leave your child for seven to nine hours a day. Your setting or not setting limits greatly affects how my day goes! As I relate to you my thoughts on setting limits, please understand that I am probably speaking for a lot of teachers and child care givers out there.
Here are six areas in which I see a great variance in limits.
· Talking. Talking too much is not the issue. Believe me, our school is not always quiet and my teachers know they are not the “silence police.” It’s incessant verbalization of every thought that comes into a child's head. He is not necessarily talking to anybody. He is just talking. This talking includes sound effects, and it’s a non-stop barrage of noise. What would help? Sitting through a church service or movie quietly… without head phones and an iPad as a distraction.
· Technology. Yes, the kids are able to multitask better and learn things earlier intellectually through the advances in technology. But they can’t tie their shoes or cut with scissors. Young children need time building with Legos and Lincoln Logs to increase dexterity in their fingers. A little time with actual block building could save you thousands in occupational therapy later.
· Internet Access. Oh my goodness, the things your kids know! Teaching in secondary, I get to hear a lot about how your kids go around the precautions you set for them. The only true way to limit the effect of the internet on your kids is to wait till middle school to allow them on the Internet, limit the amount of time on it, require that it be used in a family room so that some off-the-cuff monitoring is possible, and take all technology away when homework, eating, or sleeping are your objectives. Kids cannot control the desire to keep playing or drawing or watching. Heck, some parents can’t either. Don’t allow yourself to believe that they will do what you ask them to behind their closed bedroom door. Even the nicest of my kids is currently deceiving parents in one fashion or another regarding the Internet. And they do not believe they are wrong to do it. We’re just “old-fashioned.”
· Privileges. Why is it called PG-13? Could it be that those who study brain development felt that children under 13 might be scared or disturbed by the content? Hmmm. I wonder. Okay, I will admit that I don’t always pay attention to that 13 part either. I think you can argue that a privilege or two early is not detrimental. You have not created a monster until your child feels he is entitled to any privilege you have whenever he wants it. There’s something to be said for “paying your dues.” Your child will not die in the process of waiting for the right age for a certain privilege.
· Choice. A child’s choices should include what to wear, in which extra-curricular activities to participate, with whom to play, what to do with gift money… those kinds of things. A child should not be choosing bed times or dictating meals or quitting everything started. There’s a reason he has a parent. The parent is supposed to teach the child about the consequences of choices. That can’t happen if there never are any!
· Excuses. Your child has a choice to be a victim or a hero. Two of my favorite sayings involve excuses: 1) Excuses only satisfy the person making them, and 2) Life’s hard. Get a helmet. If a child is reasoning out how he got to a certain point, yippee! That’s what he’s supposed to do. But, if he is just making excuses for not reaching the desired goal, show him where the excuses don’t forgive the action (or inaction).
Raising kids nowadays is difficult. I know every generation of parents says that, but I want you to know that we teachers DO see how much harder it is for parents today. Between the sheer amount of inappropriate material available to your child through the internet to talking heads all telling you how to raise your child (me included, I know!), you have a monumental task. When all else fails, do what parents for generations have been doing: recognize your job and take it seriously. Your child doesn’t need more friends; he needs a parent.