Setting Limits with Love
Young children depend on their parents and caregivers to provide them with a stable and loving environment so they can learn and grow.
An important way that parents and caregivers can help their young children feel safe and secure is by participating in activities with them like talking, reading and singing every day. These nurturing activities build young children’s brains and help parents and caregivers feel more connected to their children, too.
Although it may sound strange, setting limits is another important way to establish a loving environment for young children. Setting limits is a way of letting your child know that you care for them and want to protect them. When parents and caregivers set limits, they encourage their children’s healthy social-emotional development by teaching them the skills they need to resolve conflict, treat others with care, and manage their emotions. These early social-emotional skills help children do better in school, build positive relationships with others, and stay safe and healthy as they grow up.
So how can parents and caregivers set limits for young babies and toddlers?
The first step: Establish comforting routines
Routines help babies and young toddlers know what to expect every day so that they can focus on learning and growing. During the first few weeks of life, it’s best to follow your baby’s lead. But as your baby adjusts to the world outside the womb, you can gradually establish a regular schedule for your baby’s sleep, play, and mealtimes every day. And because every child is different, pay attention to your baby’s patterns and then try to stick to the schedule that works for them.
Daily reminder: Take care of yourself
The more responsive a parent or caregiver is to a baby’s needs, the more secure that baby feels. But all parents and caregivers feel stressed out by a child’s cries or tantrums sometimes. If you begin to feel anxious or angry, place your child in a safe place like their crib, and give yourself a break. A short walk around the house, a few deep breaths, and even trading places with another parent or caregiver can give you the time you need to calm down and recharge. Take care of yourself, too!
Setting limits is a way to establish a loving environment.
“Do as I do”: Modeling positive behavior
Young children learn by watching the parents and caregivers in their lives. The best way to show a young child how you want them to behave is to praise good behavior and to act out positive ways to solve problems, take turns, and cooperate. As your toddler gets older, talk together about appropriate and inappropriate ways to respond to things they don’t like.