How to Set Boundaries for Preschoolers

Preschoolers are endlessly curious, and like to test the limits of their behavior. This is an important way for your child to learn about their world, and the behavior that’s expected of them. However, boundaries are necessary in order for experimenting children to remain safe and secure. Here are some tips for setting boundaries with your preschooler.

Figure out your limits early

If you are clear about your boundaries, you can more easily explain them to your child, and more easily enforce them. Aside from obvious boundaries such as “no pinching your sister” or “hold my hand when you cross the street,” think of what your limits will be about things such as mealtime behavior, technology usage, and bedtime routines.

Set appropriate expectations

As the parent of a preschooler, you know your child’s natural limitations. When running errands with your preschooler, you know that they will not be able to wait in a long line as patiently as an older child can. Set your child up for success by keeping boundaries age-appropriate.

Use clear language with your child

Preschoolers are still learning how the world works, and are lacking the context necessary for many behaviors that adults take for granted. To this end, using clear language will help your child understand what behavior is expected of them, without room for confusion. For example, instead of saying, “When we go to the library, you have to be good,” say, “In the library, use a quiet voice, and walk slowly.” Kneel down so you are on your child’s level, and ensure your child understands what you are saying.

Follow through on boundaries

If you’ve told your preschooler that they cannot stop at the playground on the way to the store, changing your mind can send them confusing messages. If you have to enforce a limitation that you’ve set for your preschooler, remain calm but firm. Sending a consistent message to your child will help them to internalize what they can and cannot do.

Praise good behavior

Noticing when your preschooler is respecting boundaries is just as important as setting them. Praise your child when they are acting appropriately, so that they can better connect their behavior to your expectations. This positive reinforcement will also help to strengthen their self-confidence, and show your child that you love and support them.

Setting boundaries for preschoolers may seem difficult at times, but setting appropriate expectations, using clear language, and remaining calm and positive will help your child to experiment within safe limits.