University of Illinois Extension

Love and Limits: A Powerful Combination

Cheri Burcham, Family Life Educator

There are a lot of different ways to raise children. What works for one child may not work for another. And some days, it seems like nothing works.

Most of us fall into one of four basic parenting styles, although none of them are always consistent.

Dictator parents set clear expectations for children and enforce the rules. But they tend to be harsh in their methods and often use punishment.

Permissive parents are child-centered and nurturing, but have trouble saying no.

Uninvolved parents don't set limits or have high expectations; however, they aren't warm and affectionate either.

Authoritative parents set clear expectations for their children and follow through on rules. Yet, while they set firm rules and consequences for disobedience, they are clearly warm and affectionate toward their children. As a result, children raised by authoritative parents are usually happy, self-controlled, and have good self-esteem. This combination of love and limits seems to produce more cooperative children who do better in school.

Setting appropriate limits and enforcing consequences are important parts of authoritative parenting. Here are some tips to follow when setting limits for your grandchildren:

  • Set as few limits as possible. If you set too many limits, it becomes impossible to enforce them.
  • Enforce the limits set. If limits are not enforced, your grandchildren will begin to question whether you really mean them.
  • Set clear rules the children will understand.
  • Let your grandchildren know what they can do.
  • Tell your grandchildren the consequences of breaking the rules beforehand and make the consequences reasonable, respectful and related to the deed.
  • Help your grandchildren understand why limits are set.
  • Every child will sometimes choose unacceptable behavior. This is your opportunity to help children learn better ways to act. Effective ways to correct a child's bad behavior are:
    • Get at eye level with your grandchildren and touch them firmly on the shoulder or arm to get their attention.
    • Use a quiet, firm voice to send the message that you are in control and serious and that you are going to talk to them about something important.
    • Tell your grandchildren what they did wrong without turning it into a lecture.
    • Ask your grandchildren what they will do next time.
    • Tell your grandchildren that they are good and that you expect that they will do better next time.
    • Give your grandchildren a hug.

Sometimes we need to realize that our behavior may need to be altered to create the positive changes in the child's behavior. It is the combination of love and limits that we need to strive for as parents and grandparents.