How to tell a child “no”? What do psychologists talk about when they talk about boundaries? Can rules and prohibitions harm a child? Perhaps there are no parents who would not care about these and other similar questions. Let’s figure it out together – how to properly build these very boundaries for a child, why it is important and how to explain to children the need to follow the rules.

A little about borders

What are “boundaries”? These are certain restrictions that impose a number of obligations on the child. They protect the little person, help him live in society, lead a full life safely for his physical and psycho-emotional state. Due to inexperience and age, the child either has no boundaries at all, or they are extremely blurred. And the task of parents is to help the baby establish these very boundaries and understand the limitations associated with them. Psychologists and educators recommend talking about boundaries closer to the age of six. It is by this period that the parts of the brain responsible for self-control mature in children. Of course, no one can forbid moms and dads to build boundaries with a child a little earlier. The main thing is that he is psychologically ready for this, since all children develop in different ways. “Can” and “npsychelzya” The child receives the very first knowledge about boundaries quite early, when parents begin to tell him the words “can” and “impossible”. However, these terms should not be used all the time. Remember: the rules for the child should be flexible! Therefore, in addition to the wording “it is possible” and “it is impossible”, there should be two more intermediate forms: “it is possible, but within certain limits” and “it is impossible, but in exceptional situations it is possible”. Why is it important? So the rules become more efficient and working, and it is easier for children to navigate in certain circumstances. For example:
  • you can’t play with matches and with a knife, you can’t open the door to strangers, etc.;
  • you can’t come home after 21 pm, but if you take time off in advance (in honor of a friend’s birthday), you can come a little later;
  • you can clean your room at any time during the day, but before the arrival of the parents it should be clean;
  • you can choose your own sports section, hobby, etc.
Why is there such flexibility in boundaries? It allows parents, on the one hand, to protect their children, and on the other hand, to give them more responsibility and independence. This maintains a balance between guardianship and children’s independence. And in order for the rules to be really observed, moms and dads need to pay attention to the development of other children’s skills: the ability to analyze, make decisions independently, be responsible for their words and actions.

What are rule-forming gestures

Many parents believe that the best option to set boundaries and rules for a child is simply to explain in detail the reason for the restrictions (“You can’t eat ice cream outside in winter because you will get sick”). But such an installation does not always work, mainly due to age restrictions. Why is this happening? Due to poor language skills, underdeveloped cognitive processes (abstract thinking, memory, etc.) and lack of life experience, it will be difficult for a child under 5-6 years old to understand the very essence of restrictions. However, at this age stage, the baby “thinks with the body”, and here rule-forming gestures will come to the aid of parents. What it is? Rule-forming gestures are physical limitations that allow moms and dads to build boundaries for a child. This is not about physical punishments, but about actions that accompany verbal rules. For example:
  • firmly take the child by the hand in a place where it is dangerous to walk alone;
  • restrain or take aside a child who fights or throws sand;
  • hug a child who is trying to get out of bed after lights out;
  • remove the child from a high surface (windowsill, rack, shelf) or prevent him from climbing there;
  • fasten the baby with a seat belt in the car, despite the screams and protests.
Many educators and psychologists argue that children who have passed the stage of physical limitations subsequently better respect the boundaries discussed with adults.

warm relationship

It is not so difficult to build boundaries with a child if the family has a really warm relationship. In this case, family rules will not be built on fear (for example, fear of punishment for non-compliance or violation), but on a sincere desire to please mom and dad, not upset them, make them proud of themselves. And it’s normal when the child is small. As they grow older, if warm relations are maintained, the child is more willing to follow the rules and not cross the borders, because he understands what it is for and maintains a comfortable microclimate in the family. For example, if the family has a policy of not bringing home street animals, then the child will at least talk to the parents first, rather than hiding the puppy under the bed. Of course, the rules must be fair for all family members. If mom forbids, and dad allows, then this violates the whole idea of ​​\u200b\u200blimitation. First, everyone needs to agree among themselves. To show that all households are equal before restrictions, make a list of rules. One is for the whole family, the other is only for the child (you can hang it in the children’s room), the third is only for the parents. Discuss together what should be on each of these lists. Perhaps it is very important for your daughter that you do not look under her bed, and for you that your son always hangs a towel on the dryer after bathing.

Specificity and sequence

If you are setting rules, try to explain to your child specifically why you are doing it. Of course, they should be justified based on the age of the child – so that he understands. If a two-year-old kid does not yet realize why it is necessary to knock when you enter a room, then a five-year-old or six-year-old child can already be told why it is important to do this. Set an example – start knocking on the nursery door yourself. Parents need to be consistent in setting boundaries. If today you set a rule according to which you cannot stroke a stray dog ​​on the street, and tomorrow you do it yourself, then the child is unlikely to follow it. By all means show observance of boundaries and rules by personal example: knock before entering the nursery, wash your hands after a walk, do not take the child’s things without asking, make the bed in the morning.

Reduced requirements

It also happens that “in the interests of the child” parents establish a huge number of different rules. Not only is it simply impossible to remember them all, but some of them are also rather ridiculous and betray parental anxiety. Try to analyze the list of rules set for children. Leave only those that really help to make the child’s life safe and of high quality: you can’t eat snow, leave the house without warning, break into the bathroom while mom or dad is washing, cross the road at a red light, etc. Remember: the fewer rules, the better they are remembered and followed!


It is the encouragement that will allow moms and dads to make the observance of boundaries and rules pleasant for the child. We are talking about praise, appreciation, personal attention, physical contact (pat on the head, hug) and verbal support. “Thank you for putting away all the toys before bed – it’s so nice to come into your room!” The newer the rules, the more difficult it is for the child to follow them, because they have not yet become a habit. Therefore, it is very important to note and notice the efforts of the child – this way he will be more motivated. “You haven’t forgotten to wash the dishes after breakfast for a week now – I am very happy and appreciate your efforts!”