One of Jean Jacques Rousseau’s philosophies was the notion that children’s personality development is influenced by the internal forces (i.e. temperament), criticizing the institutions and the society for limiting children’s freedom of exploring the environment.
Similar to philosopher’s insight, research findings suggest that human beings are indeed born with a temperament that is unlikely to change over time and which can highly influence their interaction and adaptation to the environment as well as the affecting the quality of their future relationships. Yet, parenting style plays its part in children’s personality development.
As mentioned by J.J Rousseau, children have a strong curiosity for the surroundings and they can exhibit a natural form of independence from early stages. While parents should encourage children to make and act on personal choices, it is also highly necessary that children learn a wide variety of rules.
Far from crushing a child’s spirit, boundaries can actually equip children with healthy stress mechanism skills and encourage positive/social behavior; they actually prepare children for adulthood and as such, boundaries should be taught….
From an early age!
Children do not have knowledge of consequences. While their brain and judgment function is in continuous development, they will certainly need parental guidance. This is why it is essential for parents to be fully involved in activities and limit negative behaviors such as throwing toys or leaving them on the floor after the game ends, shouting or hitting. By stopping such behavioral reactions, children become aware of consequences, learn the importance of responsibility and self-control of negative emotions.
Order & Cooperation
Setting boundaries also instill in children the sense of order and cooperation. Activities such as washing hands before eating or waiting one’s turn in conversation help children understand that relationships or any work they initiate follow an order of steps, which can be accomplished through cooperation.
Competence & Problem-Solving Skills
Children are often restless and tend to act in ways that could draw attention upon them. In most of the cases, such behavior is a result of their desire to receive guidance. They do not know what to do or where to go in order to achieve their goals. Take as an example a child who continuously takes the toys out of the box so he can use it as a spatial ship. For him, the process of building one can be frustrating and he completely ignores the mess he created. In this case, parents should help the child find a better place for the toys while also finding different means that could build his ship. In order to give the child a sense of competence and confidence in his own skills, parents can only suggest ideas and allow the child to move the toys away or build the ship.
Boundaries exist everywhere in our society as children are not the only ones who need to learn how to behave within a social context. Whether we think of a public area or job instructions, boundaries assure a good function of society and work with the aim to create balance and safety. Similarly, teaching children the importance of respecting household boundaries, parents actually prepare them to follow the law and understand its role in our life.
While some parents may argue that boundaries can affect or limit a child’s self-expression or creativity, it is important to remember that boundaries are meant to assure a healthy and safe moral development. An indulgent parenting style can seriously damage a child’s emotional and social development. Children who are not fully aware of the consequence of their actions or do not distinguish the difference between good or bad behavior are more prone to exhibit anti-social behavior (i.e. alcohol/drug abuse, engage in unsafe sexual activities, etc), present a tendency of selfishness and superiority towards other people or in worst scenarios, develop mental disorders such as depression or anxiety as a lack of self-esteem and sense of belonging.
The key to setting successful and healthy boundaries relies in the parenting style. A strict and a permissive style can be equally damaging a child’s development. As such, an authoritative approach is more likely to offer children a balanced environment where s/he can learn through clear guidance, reasons, and importance of rules while allowing enough space for child’s personal/democratic choices.