3 Methods to Set Limits Without Punishing Your Children

Setting limits for children is a way of showing them love. In order to establish limits, parents can use different strategies and techniques avoiding punishment.
3 Methods to Set Limits Without Punishing Your Children
María Matilde

Written and verified by the pedagogue and trainer María Matilde.

Last update: 27 December, 2022

Raising children is a wonderful and, at the same time, complicated task. The goal of any parent is to educate their children with love and affection and to establish appropriate limits so that the children grow and mature correctly, and are able to function in society. In this regard, the following techniques to set limits without punishing children can be of great help. Here are three useful resources to educate children without resorting to yelling and prohibitions.

What do we mean by setting limits for children?

As children grow, it’s necessary that they learn routines and habits, and that they progressively learn rules regarding daily life and their relationship with others.

So, the main reason why limits are necessary is for children to learn the fundamental order of their life in the future. Adult life and professional life run according to certain rules and codes. Children need to learn this as they begin to mature.

A sad child complaining about everything.

Therefore, it’s essential to educate children with all the love possible. But to educate them by setting reasonable limits is also means showing them love. Because limits allow children to be free, and at the same time, to learn about their obligations. Boundaries teach children to relate respectfully to each other and teach them what’s right or allowed and what’s not, what’s good for them and what’s not.

So, limits are the strategy par excellence to educate children and teach them values such as respect, responsibility, solidarity, tolerance, discipline, and constancy. Setting limits is a way to provide children with the tools they need in order to face their future and become well-rounded adults.

Why isn’t it a good idea to punish in order to set limits?

If we’ve said, setting limits for children is the fundamental strategy to educate them, it’s coherent to emphasize that punishment isn’t a good option at all. Depriving or prohibiting in order to get a child to change an attitude or behavior won’t help achieve the goal.

When faced with punishment, children internalize the anger and frustration that this punishment causes them. However, they’ll rarely stop to think or reflect on the reason for the punishment.

Therefore, even if it’s complicated, it’s necessary to provide children with the motives and reasons for setting limits. Also, it’s important to explain the relationship between the limit and the need to modify certain behavior. Additionally, we should resort to the consequences of not doing something, such as taking away or reducing privileges. It’s even good to motivate and reward children from time to time when they obey or behave well.

Three techniques to set limits without punishing children

There are certainly many other strategies and techniques to set limits without punishing children. But, on this occasion, we’ll share three techniques that aren’t only effective, but also relatively simple to carry out on a daily basis.

The strategy of the alternative, a good option

A useful strategy to set limits to children is to provide them with an alternative to the behavior or action we want them to modify. This way, they won’t feel that they’re doing something wrong, but that they can do it better differently.

For example, it’s better to suggest alternatives, such as playing with their own toys rather than with kitchen utensils. Or offer them the alternative of first tidying up their clothes and toys, and then going out to play in the park, and explain that, in this way, they won’t have to interrupt their fun with their friends to go home to do their daily chores.

The STOP technique: offer more dialogue and explanations

In order to set limits without punishing, dialogue and communication with children is essential. So, considering the children’s age, limits should be explained and reasons should be given as to why they’re set. In this way, little ones will understand a limit and accept it in a more positive way.

Child playing with building blocks, but not wanting to pick them up.

In this regard, an excellent tactic can be to apply the STOP technique. This method consists of stopping doing or saying immediately when we hear this word.

Thus, children will internalize that the word STOP indicates an order that must be obeyed immediately. Once we’ve managed to capture children’s attention, we can explain to them the reasons for limiting, modifying, or eliminating such action or behavior.

Table of reds and greens to set limits without punishing children

Another useful strategy is to make a chart with the children in which the days of the week are represented. Every night, before going to bed, the day is colored in green if the child has behaved well, and in red if the child hasn’t behaved. For example, if the parents had to get their child’s attention by using the STOP technique.

The positive thing about applying this strategy is that it helps and teaches children to set goals. So, at the end of the week, if there are more green than red days, children will feel that they’ve achieved their goals and, therefore, it’ll certainly be necessary to celebrate their achievements, and why not, to think about and negotiate certain rewards.

In short, we hope you like these techniques to set limits without punishing your children. If you start using them, you’ll see how quickly they have an effect on the little ones!

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This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.