Have you heard the expression – “Everything in moderation”? It has value in so many situations – from what we eat or drink to how we raise our children. Basically, except for obviously harmful substances or practices, we can eat ice cream or drink wine – just not to an extreme. The same is true when setting boundaries for children.
Traditionally, society and/or parents set very clear and firm boundaries for children. The penalties for wandering outside of those limits could be quite severe. It wasn’t uncommon to be cut off from family or friends, religious groups or society itself. Eventually, thinking moves to a more enlightened approach or even to an extreme one.
One extreme is the concept of “free-range parenting”. It’s the idea of letting kids learn about the world by experiencing it without much parental involvement. It takes into account the mental age of the child and risk involved.
This practice is probably the opposite of “helicopter parenting”. It’s described by Parents magazine as “an excess of responsible parenting”https://www.parents.com/parenting/better-parenting/what-is-helicopter-parenting/
Both concepts have some merits but they also have disadvantages, especially the free range concept. I’m all for kids learning through experimenting. But, we also know that kids’ brains and their critical thinking skills are not fully developed. (Neither are some adults’ but that’s for another day!)
How can we expect them to make good judgment calls when they don’t have the skills to know if they’re right? Some articles claim that “the world is a safer place” than it used to be. That may or may not be true. How comfortable are we with the chance that the outcome may be unpleasant or tragic?
What’s the problem with not setting boundaries?
My 2.5 year old grandson and I were at a crowded story time last week. It’s fun for kids to feel comfortable enough to get up in the circle and participate in the songs and dances. But, what about when someone’s child is literally running around kids and babies that are sitting or playing on the floor? Is that free-range parenting or the parent giving up? Thankfully, we’re a very individualistic society. However, we still live together and need to cooperate so we all win. Setting boundaries for children early on makes them good members of the group. They learn collaboration, respect and compassion.
Failure to understand boundaries is a little like adults that talk really loudly and unnecessarily on their cell phones in public. The right to behave in certain ways stops at the next person’s space. Just as we would want from others.
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