Many parents today complain that their children do not respect them as they should and they confess not knowing what to do about it. Teachers complain that misbehavior is a problem in schools which is not easily solved. Children today learn faster and sooner than ever before, yet many of them do not show the same precociousness towards good behavior. There seems to be what John Rosemond calls a "disciplinary paralysis" all around us, where parents have resigned themselves to the idea that “today’s kids just aren’t like they used to be.”
In fact, children today are the same as always; what has changed is the way parents treat them. The job of parents, now as always, is to take care of their children, disciple them and provide the conditions for optimal development physically, emotionally and intellectually. In order to do so parents must earn the respect of their children, with love and limits. Many well-meaning parents today are having trouble setting limits for their children either because they don’t understand the consequences of raising children without limits, or simply because they don’t know how to set limits.
It is easy to confuse patience with permissiveness, and limits with physical, verbal or psychological aggression. Some parents avoid disciplining their children because of the resentment of authority they had when they were growing up. Thus, they prefer to avoid confrontation with their children. Other parents, consciously or unconsciously, repeat the patterns of control and aggressiveness with which they themselves were raised. Actually, neither permissiveness nor aggressions of any kind are effective ways to set limits for children. Worst yet, these methods can negatively impact the character of the child and the harmony of family life. A parent-child relationship in which firmness and harmony reigns is very important in the lives of children because through it they learn to interact not only with parents but also with siblings, friends, teachers, and others.
To set limits for children is to know when to say "yes" and how to say "no”. It is a simple task when children are young, but if parents do not take it seriously it will become an increasingly challenging task as children grow older. To learn to respect others and to set limits for others are two fundamental aspects of the child´s education. It is a learning process that involves, practicing and, at times, making mistakes and suffering consequences. It is through healthy boundaries, set firmly and consistently by parents, that children understand that they must respect others, and earn the respect of others. They internalize what is right and what is wrong and they learn to tolerate frustration. Living with reasonable boundaries will allow them to make good decisions every day which will result in good behavior. A child who is educated in this way is more likely to navigate the difficult years of adolescence prepared to meet the challenges they inevitably will encounter.
Limits are a perplexing issue for many parents; however giving children consistent boundaries has considerable, even life-changing benefits for the whole family. Regardless of the age of the children, any time is a good time to understand the importance of limits, to assess how well one is doing, and finally to implement strategies making limits a part of your child´s life.