Family Checkup
Setting Limits

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Setting Limits helps parents teach self-control and responsibility, show care, and provide safe boundaries. It also provides youth with guidelines and teaches them the importance of following rules. This is a two-step process:

Step 1: Setting Rules

Father talking to his son on a sofaPhoto by
  • Make clear, simple, and specific rules.
  • Make sure your child understands your rules.
  • Have a list of consequences.
  • Be ready to follow through.

Step 2: Following Up

Research shows that parents are most effective in setting limits when they follow up right away. Youth are more likely to follow rules if they know parents are checking up on them and will enforce the consequences consistently.

  • Give a consequence when rules are broken.
  • Offer encouragement when rules are followed.

Setting Limits Helps Parents Teach Self-Control and Responsibility

Extra Tips

  • State the limit and the consequence clearly.
  • Catch the problem early.
  • Follow through each time a limit is stretched or a rule is broken.
  • Remember to use a firm and calm tone of voice.
  • Avoid arguments and threats.
  • Offer encouragement each time a rule is followed.

Testing Limits is a natural part of growing up, but it presents a special challenge for parents. Often our first reactions may come from fear for our child’s safety, or anger at being disobeyed. The SANE guidelines can help parents establish appropriate consequences when youth break rules.

Youth may get angry, act out, or become isolated when parents enforce consequences. Your child is testing you and your limits. Don’t react. Be consistent with your rules.

S – Small consequences are better

A – Avoid consequences that punish your child

N – Non-abusive responses 

E – Effective consequences (are under your control and non-rewarding to your child)