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Establishing Limits With Your School-Age Child

Topic Overview

Many children ages 6 to 10, if left to their own devices, would eat pizza 3 times a day, 7 days a week, or play video games for hours at a time. That is because they have not developed control over their drives and appetites, which can include cravings for specific foods, toys, and things, as well as for praise and attention.

Parents who set limits for their children show them that they love and care about them. The following suggestions may help you to set fair and appropriate limits for your school-age children:

  • Be a hands-on parent and pay attention to what your children are doing. Are their activities harmful or dangerous? For example, do they consistently obey your safety rules while bicycling? Girls may not be as interested as boys are in taking obvious physical risks. But girls' activities also need to be monitored.
  • Get help in knowing what is right for your children's developmental level. Look for movie and video reviews that rate violence and sexual content for families. Likewise, find nutritional information on the food you buy for the family.
  • Set reasonable limits for your children, and spend time explaining those limits. Family rules and the consequences of breaking those rules should be well defined and understood.
  • Be ready to reassess limits. As children mature, they will continually outgrow some limits. You might ask your 6-year-old child not to leave his or her own yard when playing outside. By age 10, your child may be responsible enough to play within a larger defined area, such as your cul-de-sac or block. Most children can appreciate the idea that they will be able to do more activities when they are older. When considering expanding your children's limits, it may be helpful to discuss specifics as a family and give the children a voice in the process. This can help your children to feel that their opinions are important and to gain confidence that their positive behavior will be rewarded. Eventually, when your children are ready, you can give them the opportunity to set their own limits and, in doing so, teach them self-control.

You can also help your children build healthy habits by being a good role model. Your everyday actions greatly influence your child's behavior.

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer John Pope, MD - Pediatrics
Specialist Medical Reviewer Louis Pellegrino, MD - Developmental Pediatrics
Last Revised May 14, 2013

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