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Age Appropriate Boundaries for your Child

age appropriate boundaries for children

Discipline. It’s a word most parents know, and a word most children seem to ignore altogether! All parents have experienced a child who doesn’t seem to listen, won’t respond to discipline or seems to misbehave, no matter what the punishment. Before we delve into exactly what discipline method is suitable for a child, let us first understand what the definition of discipline is – what discipline means. The dictionary definition of discipline is: The treatment suited to a disciple or learner; education development of the faculties by instruction and exercise: training, whether physical, mental, or moral. So in fact, discipline means “to teach”. An important phase of early childhood development is for a child to assert his or her independence and will. This shows that children are coming into their own and forming an identity separate to their parents.

Other reasons for behavioral issues include:

  • Not enough focused Mom and Dad attention

  • Wanting to get revenge

  • Wanting to flex their power muscles

  • Feeling angry or unloved

  • Feeling tired or irritable

  • Experiencing a hormone surge of insanity (in teens)

Possibly the most important aspect of discipline is that it be age-appropriate. This means the discipline and the way in which you discipline your children must be in relation to their age and their ability to grasp the concept of action and consequence. This is the only chance for success. Explaining to a one year old why she is being punished for hitting her sibling isn't going to get you very far if she can't yet understand reasoning.

Always ask yourself: “Am I providing age appropriate choices?” With a younger child, for instance, you might ask, “Do you want to wear your green or pink shoes today?" With a teen you might negotiate house chores, “Do you choose raking the lawn or cleaning out the rabbit hutch?" Bedtime will vary with need and age. Don't ask your child to do anything he/she cannot do. Make sure that what you are asking of your child is a behaviour within his or her reach — if it's not, your child will get frustrated and be less likely to listen to you in the future.

Discipline methods can be divided into certain categories. They include:

Positive Reinforcement

The emphasis here is to focus on good behavior instead of bad behavior. Parental attention and positive feedback is one of the most powerful forms of positive reinforcement. (Remember your children love you and want your approval).


This technique literally involves the simple act of redirecting your child to appropriate behavior. (If a child is scribbling on the table, simply and calmly place a piece of paper down to draw on, or distract to a more suitable activity).

Verbal Instruction/Explanation

Going over what you want your child to do (and why), can help him/her to develop good judgment. Children need to realize the reason behind the request to do something, and “because I said so” does not do the trick. Remember we want to educate our children!


Time-outs involve physically removing your child from a problem situation. Placing your child in a neutral area, (with no distractions) such as a comfortable corner of a room with no toys or television, can provide the opportunity to regain composure before being allowed back into the family environment. (Let them know what they can do to get out of the situation). This should not be a time of total isolation – and never leave your child completely unattended. Remain close by, (with an eye on them) but carry on with your chores – such as making dinner or cleaning up. Time-outs should not last longer than five minutes. One minute of time-out per year of life is a good rule of thumb. When the time is up, remember to quietly remind your child of the reason for the time-out, and then give a reassuring hug and a kiss. The objective is to teach, not scold).

Establishing Rules

Explain your rules clearly, but reasonably and be prepared to repeat them until your child learns to follow them on his/her own. Make sure that your rules are relative to your child’s age and within reason.


This is a technique effective with school-age children and teenagers and involves restricting your child to a certain place, usually home, as a consequence of breaking rules or disobedience. Grounding does not have to mean that the child sits alone in his/her bedroom. On the contrary, grounding may mean that instead of attending a peer’s party, the child is required to watch a dvd with the rest of the family. Remember that the object is to teach, and too many strict and unreasonable punishments will lead to lying, to avoid the consequences of bad behaviour.

Withholding Privileges

Children should learn that privileges come with responsibility and they need to be earned. In order to be effective, this technique should not be used too often. A privilege that is valued by the child, such as watching television or playing with friends, should be temporarily removed.

Make a commitment to your child's discipline, and be consistent in your behaviour toward children. Create Consequences that are logical and meaningful. Logical consequences teach children that for every action there is a consequence. This helps children feel safe and supported.


For natural, child-safe remedies related to tantrums and other behavioral issues, please visit:

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