Setting limits
         I sent for an audiocassette of a speech given by Dr. Sylvia Rimm, a
nationally syndicated child psychologist. She has sage advice about setting
limits for children, and I offer you the classroom perspective on the subject.

         The classroom is a place where a child who has not learned limits can
play out an almost-daily drama that has a negative impact on the entire class.
This is the child who has to have the pink scissors, not the blue ones. She has to
get her choice of partners from among the other classmates. She is the child for
whom the whole world is a Burger King: a place where she can have it her way.

         And while she is making a fuss, what is happening to the other children in
the classroom? The educational process is shut down for everyone. The
remainder of the class becomes bystanders to the power struggle that ensues.
The teacher must be careful not to give this struggling child everything she asks
for lest any of the other children try the same tactic, reasoning, “But you let her
have it when she cried for it.”

         Dr. Rimm advises that parents need to offer their children leadership, limits,
and love. By having limits imposed on them by their parents, children learn that
they cannot get everything that they want.

         By being leaders, parents have to realize that they are the ones with the
wisdom. Parents have the “big picture.” Parents - and teachers as well - have to
understand that when kids say, “I hate you” because they are not getting what
they want, that this is an immediate and temporary feeling that later subsides.
Children crave limits. In being on the receiving end, they understand that
parents are really showing their love this way.

         Most importantly, Dr. Rimm advises, children receive small amounts of
responsibility and choices when they are younger. These increase as the
children grow older and can take on more. To give too much choice and
responsibility at too early an age is detrimental to children.

         This column has been incorporated and expanded in Teach Your Children
Well: A Teacher’s  Advice for Parents

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