5 tips for… setting limits and boundaries

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We all know about settling limits and boundaries with children as a way to support behaviour guidance and allow for a sense of belonging. Here are some tips to help you with limits and boundaries in your service.

  1. Be age appropriate: It is important to consider the age of the children that the limits and boundaries are aimed at as, if they are unachievable or too restrictive, they can have the opposite affect to what we hoped. Remember also that as children age and develop so do their abilities and confidence, so limits and boundaries must be revisited to address children’s growth and reflect the current children, not be a one size fits all approach to all children.
  2. Involve the children: If children are involved in the process of setting the limits and boundaries they are more likely to be aware of the reasons behind them (safety, respect, empathy etc.) and therefore adhere to them. If children feel the rules have been forced upon them then they may rebel against them. All children have a voice and the more their voice is heard the more children develop trusting relationships.
  3. Be consistent: Children understand limits and boundaries quicker if they are consistently getting the same responses to their behaviour, however if children get different responses at different times from different educators it can cause confusion. This can also lead to children testing the limits and boundaries regularly to see what response they will get. Therefore it is important to make sure everyone is on the same page and will consistently reinforce the agreed upon limits and boundaries.
  4. Align with best practice: It is important to consider the expectations of children and whether these are about the children’s needs or the adult’s needs. Understanding that children are learning about their world and where they fit within it allows for a more child-focused approach to limits and boundaries instead of seeing children as mischievous and needing to be punished. Also consider the level of the response, for example sending a child away from a situation to make the behaviour stop is not best practice as it does not allow for engagement with the teaching moment that has been presented.
  5. Be a role model: Children learn through their observations of how the world works, so a “do as I say, not as I do” approach to limits and boundaries is unlikely to work. Sitting on a table and telling children not to do this sends mixed messages. Consider your body language when you are being asked to do something by another team member, do you role model acceptance and respect or do you roll your eyes and sigh. Children see a lot more than we think they do and learn from this.


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