When setting rules and boundaries for your children “because I said so” may be the biggest reason given for enforcing a rule. However, when children have a better, age-appropriate understanding of the rule, and the consequences, they are more likely to learn why obedience is important.
Confusion Without Facts
When you simply tell a child not to do something or lay down the house rules without communication, it can create a bit of confusion for the child. While the child may follow the rule, he or she may not understand the reasoning behind it, which can lead to testing in the form of rule breaking. When kids follow the rules without an understanding of them, their obedience is rooted in fear of breaking the rule rather than making a good choice based on their understanding of why a rule exists. Sharing the reasoning behind the rule in an age appropriate way (i.e. “Don’t hit, hitting hurts” for toddlers) can help children to understand why a rule or boundary is in place, which can foster cooperation in abiding by it.
Make it Understandable
Some children may not fully comprehend the basis of some rules. For instance some parents may insist that you can’t swim right after eating. Young children may not be able to understand the science of digestion, but they can understand things such as, “because it could make your stomach hurt.” With a bit of imagination, you can make nearly any subject understandable to a child.
When it comes time to discuss rules with the children, make sure to create an open forum that fosters communication. This means that instead of lecturing the children on the dos and don’ts, you encourage the children to participate in the discussion about the rules. When children feel vested in developing the rules and the consequences, they are more likely to obey them.
Your Motivations Behind “No”
While it can be tempting to simply expect obedience without an understanding as to why, simple, age-appropriate explanations can help children understand why following a rule is important. More importantly, when a child understands the reasons behind the boundaries, it builds a solid foundation for when he has to make a choice to follow the rule when you’re not watching.