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#1 of 22 Old 07-07-2005, 05:18 PM - Thread Starter
 
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What the heck does this mean?

We get parent education talks at the mom-tot "preschool" I am attending with my 21 month old dd. [Its called preschool, but we meet once a week for 6 weeks, like a class would.]

Today the teacher talked about temperament and spirited children, although not in a very thorough way.

She mentioned the common sense notion that children need limits, and said something negative about parents who let their kids run around doing whatever they want to. Gave a song and dance about however much a child protests, they really appreciate limits. A child's job is to question and test limits. Yada yada.

Nothing remarkable about her talk, but I don't understand. Limits for the sake of limits? Are limits like vitamins? Need to give Johnny his dose of limits today!

Life has limits. Life with me has its limits. So what is this need to "set" limits?

I'm short on sleep and a little ramble-y, but I felt like she was speaking a foreign language.

It seemed like there was a false dichotomy - Johnny getting his RDA of limits vs. Johnny running free like Lord of the Flies. And heck, even in LOTF limits self-expressed themselves.

I didn't like how little a child's opinion seemed to matter. Oh, Susie is crying but really, on the inside, she's glad! No, she's not. She's pissed off. Sometimes life is going to piss you off, no matter your age, but why pretend otherwise?

It felt so ... detached.

So, explain this limit thing to me!
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#2 of 22 Old 07-07-2005, 06:01 PM
 
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Every time I hear that kids need limits, it makes them feel loved, I question it.
In one book I read, I think Parent Effectiveness Training by Tomas Gordon, he says that no one *likes* limits. We'd all prefer to be able to do exactly what we want. But that limits are a way of life. He says that kids prefer to know what the limits are. So they don't really want limits, but if there are going to be limits, then they like to know exactly what they are. kwim?
That said, another way to think about the limits issue is that kids will test us to make sure that we will be there, and keep them safe, etc. Kids will test limits because that's just what they do- that's how they learn exactly what the limits are. So if you have a rule about "no feet on the couch", kids don't really know exactly what that means, so they will try different things with it- putting bare feet on the couch ("is this ok?") or putting their feel on the side of the couch ("is this the same as feet on the couch?").
I don't believe that kids need limits just for the sake of having limits. But sometimes there just are limits. Ds is not allowed to play with the trash can, it just seems gross. I don't think he feels more loved because I won't allow him to play with it (even subconsciously) but I think he does appreciate the fact that it's the same limit every time. He knows what is expected. And he knows that if he does go touch the trash can that I will pick him up and take him to play with something else.
So I guess in a way I agree with the speaker on parents who let their children run around and do anything. That doesn't really benefit anyone- child or parent. But, like you said, there are plenty of limits out there without parents setting arbitrary ones.

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#3 of 22 Old 07-07-2005, 06:26 PM
 
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I always cringe at the "kids need limits" thing too. I think it comes from the idea that parents should be the authority--they need to establish who's "in charge" and creating limits does this. Imposing limits on another person is, of course, a control thing, but even those who do it don't like to use the word "control." It makes it much more acceptable if we convince ourselves that kids need or, better yet, WANT this.

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#4 of 22 Old 07-07-2005, 07:16 PM
 
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Well, I can see both sides of it. I've seen children with seriously no limits who had a very interesting take on life. These kids are elementary age and eat as much junk food as they want, watch as much TV as they want, pee wherever they like, take off their clothes spontaneously in public, color on the walls, stay up late until they want to go to bed, and etc. Well, hey, if that's cool for that family, then OK. It was a conscious decision by the family, but it's not for me. It seems sort of disrespectful to parent and child alike, and I would not want to be cleaning up all those messes or dealing with the constantly hungry whiny child.

I was raised with inconsistent limits and there was definitely a lot of insecurity and testing. The limits were often nonsensical and completely at my parents' whims. Sort of like, what if a dictator was your parent. Lots of rules, but they were to please the dictator and there was never a reason or consistency, and the punishments never fit the crime in any case (i.e. didn't clean your room? no TV for a week! and a big yelling. but next week, you don't have to clean your room, because the dictator is wrapped up in personal crises, please take a number). Also, I've seen parents who just seem to have a million limits, just because they can, and say "because I'm the parent."

I do think there are healthy limits, that stay consistent, mostly due to health and safety at a toddler's age, and the limits are consistent across the family (with the exception of bedtime) - we all do the same thing. Like not playing with the garbage can or light sockets. Or running in the street into traffic. We don't watch TV or eat much sugary, nutritionally void corporate-produced foods. Like peeing in the toilet if there's one available, and you're able to use a toilet. A lot of other things can be negotiated or are personal preferences. Now that our child is older, we have limits based on respect, tolerance, and nonviolence in our home (pretending is OK, but actually hitting or calling mommy a poohead, not so OK, because it's hurtful. And I don't tease her - she's sensitive to a lot, and I'm a joking kind of person). We don't allow racist jokes, even if a friend told it at school and thought it was funny - we talk about why it's not so nice and how our friends would feel if they heard that joke. But mostly, the limits are there through modelling (they apply to all of us, except bedtime!) and through providing choices within the limits (i.e. bedtime is at 8pm. We'll have time to read stories if you brush your teeth now, or you can keep playing up until bedtime, brush teeth and no stories). Our kid just needs a LOT of sleep to be a happy, functioning child the next day - about 10-11 hours, precisely. Everything would be sooo much easier if she didn't need that much sleep, or if she didn't get to school.

Also, they do pick up a lot of things at school that you won't really find acceptable in your home, so there's another argument for family-consistent limits at a later age.
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#5 of 22 Old 07-07-2005, 07:18 PM
 
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: Interesting topic...

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#6 of 22 Old 07-07-2005, 07:18 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Deva33mommy
In one book I read, I think Parent Effectiveness Training by Tomas Gordon, he says that no one *likes* limits. We'd all prefer to be able to do exactly what we want. But that limits are a way of life. He says that kids prefer to know what the limits are. So they don't really want limits, but if there are going to be limits, then they like to know exactly what they are. kwim?
That makes a lot of sense to me.

I also think it is our responsibility to help guide our children through the various limits that they might encounter out in the world, and to understand why those limits are there.

I don't know that it makes children feel loved, but I think it does make them feel that we are there to help them and to guide them and to keep themselves (and others) safe.
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#7 of 22 Old 07-07-2005, 07:26 PM
 
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When I hear this what it feels like people are saying is, "Kids need limits for the sake of being controlled." Or "Kids need to be controlled." I completely disagree with that. Whenever a conversation seems to move around how much control children need over them, I stop paying attention to any related advice because I'm just not interested.

On the other hand, everyone naturally has limits. We as parents should help kids deal with those naturally occuring limits.

I do not at all agree with creating limits just for the sake of having my dd feeling controlled from time to time.
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#8 of 22 Old 07-07-2005, 07:32 PM
 
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Also, Playful Parenting has a very interesting discussion on limits; and how they do help children to feel safe and also able to express themselves. Running into the limit, how we respond to their reactions is also important. I agree with others though, imposing limits just to control kids (like the ezzo infamous example of making toddlers have "blanket time" so they get used to parent-controlled nonsensical limits) is just kinda weird.
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#9 of 22 Old 07-07-2005, 07:37 PM
 
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The trainer was just repeating a mantra that appears in almost all parenting books. All it does is give parents permission to rule the roost and not feel guilty. And there are many childhood experts who believe this as well. However, if you think back to your own childhood, did limits make you feel loved or that you were not to be trusted?

I never felt like the limits set for me were for my own good, they were for my parents. I still feel that way. I would have preferred an honest approach, "I want you home at 11:30 because it makes me feel better and I can go to bed knowing you are safe." I still would not have been happy about it, but it would have made me consider their feelings when I broke curfew instead of "Screw you. I am having fun, and I am staying out late!"

"Kids need limits" should replaced in every book with "kids needs to be taught". Teaching is an act of giving; limiting is an act of taking.
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#10 of 22 Old 07-07-2005, 07:44 PM
 
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#11 of 22 Old 07-07-2005, 08:06 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by annab

I never felt like the limits set for me were for my own good, they were for my parents. I still feel that way. I would have preferred an honest approach, "I want you home at 11:30 because it makes me feel better and I can go to bed knowing you are safe." I still would not have been happy about it, but it would have made me consider their feelings when I broke curfew instead of "Screw you. I am having fun, and I am staying out late!"

"Kids need limits" should replaced in every book with "kids needs to be taught". Teaching is an act of giving; limiting is an act of taking.

What did your parents say? Just that 16 year olds need to be home at 11:30? I think mine said that too. I agree, explaining why we have a certain "rule" or "limit" or "teaching" or whatever is absolutely necessary, and the other thing is that it's fairly consistent. I let my daughter stay up late on weekends because she doesn't have school, for example, and she can take a nap the next day if she's tired (not an option at current school). And even at the youngest age, we tried to explain why we had certain rules - i.e. the stove is hot; the cars are fast; knives are sharp; bugs don't taste so yummy and might hurt your stomach...

I like your definition as teaching, I think it's closer to how I see it. I think the word "limits" stirs up a lot in people and in some cases it's really semantics. I like "boundaries" because that is an important word I use for myself, regarding respect and assertive communication; but our definition of "limits" is more modelling how our family lives with mutual respect and communication. Not that I know the complete international marinetime boundary rules or anything.
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#12 of 22 Old 07-07-2005, 08:23 PM
 
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'kids need limits' is such an overused phrase. it really should be 'kids need guidance' -- which included limits, of course, as there are natural limits to everything.

i think the phrase is meant to mean that it is okay to make your child unhappy -- it is our job as parents to know what limits are, when children are too young to really understand. your child wants to eat only chocolate -- it is okay to guide him towards healthier food choices, even if the child is unhappy. we are not there to make sure children are happy at all costs. there is a range of healthy emotions. i think 'kids need limits' addresses the issue that some parents may feel they need to keep children happy and do whatever the child wants at all times, just so that they don't cry.

Jean Liedloff in the Continuum Concept talks about setting limits, i don't remember which expression she uses, but the idea is the same. her thesis is that a child needs to know that the parent will keep him safe -- these kind of limits make children feel more secure. they know that when they cannot control their emotions, the parent will be there for them, and won't let them hurt themselves or others. i agree. dc might scream and protest, but on the inside the know that the parent is consistent in keeping them safe.

she says that children instinctively know that adults know more and are there to guide them. it is like being a tourist and having a guide who speaks the local language. you need to trust them. if the guide suddenly started telling you 'okay, do whatever' but you felt that the environment dictated different rules, you would feel lost, betrayed, neglected.

i find that dc tends to test the limits when i am not doing well emotionally -- when i am upset, angry, distracted etc. part of it is, of course, mirroring my emotions. but part of it, i believe is testing whether i am still safe -- whether i will still keep her safe, whether i will set the same limits. in other words -- when mommy is upset, she can still handle me, no matter what. the world is still okay, mommy can still be in charge.

this said, i do agree that it is strange that our society is so focused on limits, that this phrase became such a staple. we are not too permissive as a parents, we are way too punitive. so in fact 'kids need limits' can be understood as sanctioning control.

'kids need limits' is certainly an oversimplification. how useful? i am not sure. for a GD parent it bears very little value -- we do not set limits for the sake of limits, limits just ARE there, and what is there, is enough. no need to add extras. for a punitive parent -- is this a justification of control? for a permissive / jelly-fish parent -- will this oversimplification change anything? i doubt it.
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#13 of 22 Old 07-07-2005, 08:57 PM
 
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I don't like hearing the phrase, but I have to admit I sorta agree with it, but not in the way some people think it means that parents should be in control of their children. I know that after my parents divorced, my mother had NO boundaries, no limits at all. We were totally not disciplined in any way at all. I was never forced to do anything I didn't want to do, I was never in trouble for things I did do. This had some very negative consequences as I grew up without any self-discipline as a result. Gentle discipline is still discipline, it is not letting the kids run the show, as some people who don't really get it want to think it is. Children do need consistent boundaries, so they know what is and what is not appropriate behavior. This doesn't mean parents should control their children, because I don't think that is really possible without being emotionally or physically abusive. I have boundaries in my interactions with all people, why should my kids be any different? I am not going to let anyone mistreat me, my things, or any other living person or animal. I respect my children, and they respect my boundaries. It works pretty good, most of the time.
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#14 of 22 Old 07-07-2005, 09:02 PM
 
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Very interesting topic and comments. I think limits are important, but need to have reasons for them: for example, safety (hold hands in parking lot), respect (we don't hit/call names), health reasons (one cookie is OK but not 17), etc.

I don't appreciate parenting propaganda which suggests arbitrary limits for children for the sake of limits or to always make life easier for the parents.

As for kids appreciating limits, I think they do appreciate knowing what the limits are and why they are there (it's a lot easier to get along if you know the rules of the game before playing). I also think kids can appreciate limits when they are for safety, etc. But as for actually liking them while they are crying out against them? Yeah, right. Let's show kids some respect for their feelings and believe what they are saying rather than gloss over their discomforts and distresses by saying that they really like it on the inside. That's just BS. I don't like being told I can't do something - why would they?

I like the ideas of boundaries. I think it's important for our kids to learn their own boundaries and to respect those of others (children or adults). I think that learning family and social limits by appropriate parental modeling is the best way to learn boundaries.

My own family of origin had lots of limits (some well-intentioned, many arbitrary) - and because my dad was an alcoholic, our limits varied day to day and hour to hour. One day something was OK, another day the same behavior could trigger an abusive parental meltdown. Limits also, as inappropriately modeled by my father, did not pertain to adults in the same way they did to children. Adults were to be respected, children were to be controlled. (I never learned anything about respect from my father, only about fear. But that's another thread.)

What I think is especially interesting is that growing up with lots of arbitrary limits backed up by "because I said so" helped shape me into a people pleaser with difficulty distinguishing boundaries and believing what I thought didn't matter. (I am now in my mid-30s and still sometimes have to back up, and say "no" after I've agreed to do something for someone.) My brother, on the other hand, has a completely different personality type and became more of the "screw you - I'll do what I want - even if it's harmful to myself and possibly to others" kind of person. (Thankfully, he's now in recovery.) I know that limits on their own don't necessary cause all this type of personal destruction, but they can get out of hand and contribute.

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#15 of 22 Old 07-07-2005, 09:03 PM
 
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Well said, Stafl.

I am a 40 year old unschooling, belly dancing, artist-mama of one almost 8 year old. I just had brain surgery and blogging.jpg about it a bit because it's just so surreal.
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#16 of 22 Old 07-07-2005, 09:25 PM
 
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My dad alway said, "Nothing good happens after midnight." He was half joking and half serious. My argument was that if I were going to do something that they did not like, I could just as easily do it from the time I got home from school until they got home.
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#17 of 22 Old 07-07-2005, 11:55 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dechen
What the heck does this mean?
I didn't like how little a child's opinion seemed to matter. Oh, Susie is crying but really, on the inside, she's glad! No, she's not. She's pissed off. Sometimes life is going to piss you off, no matter your age, but why pretend otherwise?

It felt so ... detached.

So, explain this limit thing to me!
It depends on how we are defining "limits" for me. I mean if limits means that we are (using an extreme example here...) limiting our 11 month old's access to a toy that she could choke on then yea I have done that. I would say that preventing my baby from choking because she cannot do so for herself is a limit she needs. If we are defining it that way then I think I agree. I am not sure if that is what your preschool teacher was getting at though...

She may have been referring to a family like mine where the children decide what to eat, wear, watch, listen to, and buy without limit. Of course this way of life "grew" with the kids... and there was of course much discussion and modeling of respect, safety and etc along the way, but to the average person it looks like we have no limits or "discipline" at all. We do, but they are personal and we've cultivated them.

Personally I have no patience for "just because" limits and neither do my kids.

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#18 of 22 Old 07-08-2005, 01:48 AM
 
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I don't think that kids need *arbitrary* limits.

OTOH -- I think kids do need (and sometimes even appreciate) having rules and boundries clarified and laid out for them. My kids at least, feel uncertain and insecure if they are not sure of the "right way" to act in various social situations. Having me define for them the social limits (and why) is helpful to them. Understanding that we do this or that in public, and we don't do that or this in public, and we help each other in this way or that way, etc.... these are helpful explanations that help them learn and understand what it means to be a person in relationship with other people.
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#19 of 22 Old 07-08-2005, 10:04 AM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by annabanana
'kids need limits' is such an overused phrase. it really should be 'kids need guidance' -- which included limits, of course, as there are natural limits to everything.
I agree with changing limits to guidance. I think the phrase really depends on how the individual person defines limits. I see it as guidance not as ultimate control.

In my work with children and families, we often use the phrase. This is usually with the permissive parents who give their child way too much responsibility. Kids need to be kids, they need to have someone watching out for their safety. A ten year old should not be allowed to roam the streets at ten o'clock at night on a school night in the middle of winter without a jacket. This child needs a parent there to make sure he is safe and where he should be- in bed resting for the next day of school.

Offering two choices to a child, "Do you want to wear the red shirt or the green shirt?" is in fact a limit. The yellow shirt is not an option. Of course that's not to say the child may not say, but I want to wear the yellow shirt! The all controlling parent would say NO! But most reasonable people would see there is no reason not to wear the yellow shirt (unless it's filthy) so they let them. No big deal.

I'm not sure if I'm making a point here or not, just felt like adding some thoughts!

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#20 of 22 Old 07-08-2005, 04:10 PM
 
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I see limits being thrown around with very different definitions. It is along the same lines of logical consequences vs natural consequences. There are a lot of natural limits around for children especially when they are young. Conversely we can start adding limits that are neither natural or reasonable. One that comes to mind is blanket time. When we set natural or respectful limits I think it helps a child feel more secure. My parent is in control of tmeselves and their environment and they are keeping me safe. Also keeping within limits can be a great esteem boost for kids. As they grow they gain more control over themselves and their environments.
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#21 of 22 Old 07-08-2005, 05:28 PM
 
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I do believe children need limits, but perhaps my definition of this is not the same as what others mean when they say it.

I feel that parents have the responsibility of teaching their children the difference between what's appropriate and what is not, and that children who are not taught this in a caring, consistent way often suffer because they just don't know how to act in various situations.

I don't think people should say no to kids just for the sake of saying no, but I think you have to think long term and know that you are helping your child learn to get along in our society. I think it works best for my child to have clear-cut "rules" of behavior in different settings. For example, she knows we stay in our seats in restaurants. If I was in a restaurant with no other patrons, I still wouldn't let my child scream or run around, because running around in a restaurant just isn't appropriate. And when she was too young to sit still for long in a restaurant, we just didn't go to them very often! I never let my daughter jump on the furniture because it's generally inappropriate to jump on furniture in other's homes, so why should I confuse her by letting her do it at home? I don't want her jumping on my furniture anyway, but even if I didn't mind, I'd hesitate to allow it.

Everyone has different ideas of what's appropriate, and that's where it gets a little tricky, but I have seen way too many children whose parents set few limits and those kids are just all over the place. And it's very unpleasant to have them in my home, let me tell you.

Of course, on the flip side is parents who say no to things they could really say yes to, but these days I tend to see way more too-lenient parents than the other way around.
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#22 of 22 Old 07-08-2005, 09:41 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Starflower
Limits also, as inappropriately modeled by my father, did not pertain to adults in the same way they did to children. Adults were to be respected, children were to be controlled. (I never learned anything about respect from my father, only about fear. But that's another thread.)

What I think is especially interesting is that growing up with lots of arbitrary limits backed up by "because I said so" helped shape me into a people pleaser with difficulty distinguishing boundaries and believing what I thought didn't matter. (I am now in my mid-30s and still sometimes have to back up, and say "no" after I've agreed to do something for someone.) My brother, on the other hand, has a completely different personality type and became more of the "screw you - I'll do what I want - even if it's harmful to myself and possibly to others" kind of person. (Thankfully, he's now in recovery.) I know that limits on their own don't necessary cause all this type of personal destruction, but they can get out of hand and contribute.

Hear hear!! I could have written that one. I agree with much of what has been said by the pps, and am so proud to be in a community with women who keep cool heads and discuss potentially hot button issues with respect for one another. It gives me hope for our future generations!
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