How to set limits and apply discipline to children according to their age

Knowing exactly what children are capable of is a common concern among parents. Different cultures, different expectations on the part of parents and conflicting information can make it difficult to know what limits should be placed on their behavior and when we should expect the children to respect said limits.

Luckily, the development of children is a relatively smooth and stable process. This means that when a child is healthy and has no developmental delay, it can be expected to reasonably adjust to the standards of each phase of development.

Set limits and define a discipline according to the child's age

The limits that are set and discipline marked They must be adapted to the child's age and skills. The expectations do not change, but the way of transmitting the message does evolve. Parents will transmit their teachings better and will be more successful in setting limits and marking a discipline when the development of the child is a factor taken into account.


Each phase of development requires a different approach when setting limits and defining the discipline to follow. Young children (under 3 years old) are only able to maintain attention for very short periods of time and have a reduced vocabulary, which prevents them from assimilating long and complex explanations.

On the contrary, a teenager is already able to express himself fully in his own words and to follow a thread of abstract thinking, which allows parents to talk for longer and discuss, for example, what consequences of their behavior could have been avoided . Using the same approach with a 2 year old and with a teenager will generate frustration in both parents and children.


What aspects should be included when marking the discipline and limits of your child?

These guidelines are based on the development tasks of each age.

Development phases:
- Babies (0-12 months)
No discipline is needed. At this age, babies do not have the ability to control their body or their actions. The parents are responsible for taking care of the child and keeping him away from any danger that may exist.

- Young children (1-3 years old) 
When the child is 1 year old, a discipline must be introduced. Discipline should focus on safety and avoiding hazards (eg, using the car seat or not getting on furniture) and obligations (eg pick up toys when play is finished or not) scream at home).

- Preschoolers (3-5 years) 
The discipline must remain focused on security (eg, not crossing the street without looking) and on obligations (eg, dressing without help) but also adding respect for authority figures (parents, caregivers) , Other family..). Respect for authority encompasses activities such as obeying immediately, listening when an adult is speaking, asking for things please and thanking. This will help the child prepare for the start of his school life.


- Children of school age (5-10 years)
The discipline should remain focused on safety (eg, wearing a helmet when riding a bike), on obligations (eg, washing only the teeth and preparing the school backpack) and respecting the figures of authority (parents, teachers and neighbors). In addition, discipline should begin to include respect for other children (classmates, other park children, etc.), control desires and wishes (eg, learn to be patient, take turns or share fairly). ) and participating autonomously in domestic duties (eg, doing some household chores).

- Preadolescents (10-13 years old)
The discipline continues to include all the above aspects of security (eg, not posting personal data on the Internet), obligations (eg, doing homework and making acceptable notes), respect (not answering adults badly), Self-control (eg, postponing leisure activities yourself until you have finished your homework or practicing the musical instrument) and participating in household duties (eg, putting on and running the washing machine, cooking, putting / remove the table). In addition, at these ages honesty and sincerity (eg, pious lies, half-truths, saying one thing but doing another, or accusing other people of mistakes made by oneself) is also important.

- Adolescents (13-19 years old)
All the above aspects continue to matter, but in addition, discipline can begin to focus on things like honor, formality, decency, honesty (being trustworthy or trustworthy) and morality. Examples of these types of behavior would be: putting into practice the values ​​of the family, arriving home before the deadline set by the parents, actually going to the place where he said he will go, defending the just causes, or complying with the law (p.eg, do not drink alcohol when you are under age).

Each family should interpret and use these guidelines in a different way, adapting them to the moral values ​​and principles of the family. However, what is certain is that all children are capable of meeting these expectations. By encouraging our children to meet these demands we are teaching them to be more independent, to have more confidence in themselves and to be more capable of taking care of themselves.

In essence, we are guiding them so that they can become fully functional adults, without major shortcomings. Setting limits and marking a discipline helps our children to maximize their potential and to know more about themselves as individuals, while at the same time absorbing the values ​​and principles of our family.

Deanna Marie Mason, expert in education and family health. Author of the blog Dr. Deanna Marie Mason. An educational approach to adaptation

Video: Everyday Discipline - Parenting U - Children's Hospital & Medical Center


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