A Guide to Making Effective Rules and Boundaries

Effective rules and limits are essential so that children can grow up secure and emotionally stable. Learn how to establish them.
A Guide to Making Effective Rules and Boundaries
María José Roldán

Written and verified by the psychopedagogue María José Roldán.

Last update: 18 May, 2023

Being a parent isn’t easy for anyone. In fact, it’s the hardest but most satisfying job in life. If you want to educate your children, it’s important to have effective rules and limits at home. To do it well, you mustn’t lose patience and you must advocate firmness and affection. In addition, you must be consistent at all times and know that if a rule or limit is established, there’s always a “why” behind it.

It often happens that parents feel a certain lack of ability to establish effective rules and limits for their children. Sometimes, it happens because we don’t really respect children. It may also happen because we’re not able to express ourselves correctly or because we don’t understand that dignity and love are always the most important things in parenting.

Within parenting, for rules and limits to be effective, it’s fundamental to think about the happiness and emotional well-being of both parents and children. Rules and limits should be applied to work on the personal responsibility of children. Therefore, you shouldn’t resort to blackmail, punishments, rewards, or any other means other than the children’s own decision to do things right.

To make rules and limits effective, it’s essential to practice positive discipline. In this regard, limits must be set with respect, dignity, empathy, and affection.

A mother pointing angrily at her daughters.
Sometimes, parents confuse respect and authority with severity and fear, which is never good for raising children.

Educate without falling into permissiveness

In order to establish good rules and limits, you must avoid both authoritarianism and the other side of the coin: Permissiveness. Limits and rules are necessary so that children know what’s expected of them at all times. This way, they’ll feel secure in front of their parents and will learn how to do things right. And, in turn, they’ll be adequately prepared for their future.

Also, children will learn what’s right and what’s wrong, so they’ll have better interpersonal and intrapersonal relationships. Positive discipline is the way to educate your children because it’s not based on imposing rules and limits ambiguously and without criteria. It’s about reflecting on the consequences of their actions, which will help them find solutions to repair what has happened.

How to make it effective

In order to establish effective rules and limits in raising children and practice positive discipline, parents need to take some points into account. Only in this way will it become easier and involve less conflict. To do this, keep in mind the following points.

Allow your child to participate in setting rules and limits

Ask for their opinion so that they feel listened to and respected. This emotional well-being will help them to respect the rules to a greater degree. There are limits that are non-negotiable, such as safety and respect, but for others that are more flexible, you can ask for their point of view.

Rules should be proportionate and fair

Both the rules and the consequences of not complying with them should be proportionate and fair according to the magnitude of what happened. The child should never feel humiliated, so respect should always be present.

A mother kneeling down to calmly look into her toddler's son's eyes.
Effective rules and limits should always be established with respect, mutual empathy, and the cooperation of all parties.

Respect and cooperation must prevail

If we take into account the previous point, we mustn’t forget that respect is always fundamental. Authoritarianism and fear must be avoided, as should permissiveness and emotional negligence.

It’s important to reflect on the behavior

It’s important that your child knows how to reflect on their behavior. In the beginning, they’ll need your help and you’ll need to provide it so that they understand that limits have a reason. Also, rules are necessary for a good coexistence in the family and, above all, to prepare children for life.

It’s not a matter of fortuitous impositions, but everything is designed for the present and future good of the child. For a child to really learn to be responsible for their actions, they must also experience the natural consequences without adult control.

Guide children with love and respect

With all this, children will really understand that their actions have consequences and that it’s their responsibility to choose to change for the better or not. Your guidance will be fundamental in this regard, as long as you accompany them with affection and respect.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Nelsen, J. (2007) Cómo educar con firmeza y cariño. Editorial: Medici

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