Importance of Setting Boundaries for Children Research Paper

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Boundaries for Children

Rules and norms are an expected way of social living. They are predictable and part of our lives, and, therefore, we rarely stop to question their roots. We accept them as part of our routine, as demonstrative of our progressiveness as a nation, and are comfortable in their security. When children don't have boundaries, their lives take a much different turn than parents ever plan. Even if parents don't start out setting boundaries for children, it is never too late to start. The older the child the harder it gets, but the importance of setting boundaries never declines. Setting boundaries for children is important for all who come into contact with them from educators to child care givers to parents, of course, themselves.

Whilst some parents inculcate parenting styles from their own parents, either deliberately, in which intent they may seek to transmit inculcated patterns, or, at other times, the reverse seeking not to initiate their parents destructive pattern and instead to introduce a more positive template (Santrock, 2007), in the contemporary world this is often insufficient. As Rousseau said, "Under existing conditions a man left to himself from birth would be the most disfigured of all" (1762), and this one could argue, is particularly pertinent in modern times.

The following essay traces the development of classical parenting styles into the formulation that a combination of warmth and authority is in order and most effective for child development. As a contemporary child expert insists, 'model children' were the products of homes where parents were not only nurturing but also:

Established clear, rational guidelines whilst allowing the child autonomy within those boundaries and clearly communicated both their expectorants and the reasons behind them (Darling & Steinberg, 1993, p.489)

The essay then goes on to elaborate on this so-called authoritative style showing the benefits of boundaries on children in both a family environment and from a teacher's standpoint. Several studies are presented to demonstrate that children thrive best under the auspices of boundaries; and not only but that they recognize this fact and desire it.

Classical Parenting Styles

Classical parenting styles revolved around the psychodynamic model; the learning model; and a model called 'dimensions of style. The psychodynamic model essentially argued that the emotional relationship existent between parent and child influenced the child's psychosexual, psychosocial, and personality development. The learning model, on the other hand, focused on parent's actions rather than their attitudes saying that children modeled that which they saw.

The Dimensions of style model were interested in different parenting styles and attempted to describe these and investigate what worked. Theories included Symonds (1953) early acceptance / rejection and dominance / submission category proceeding to Becker's (1964) warmth/hostility and restrictiveness / permissiveness category. Each of these reflected, in turn, psychodynamic and social learning theory where parent's socialization of their children either depends on innate characteristics of parents (psychodynamics), or from transgenerational influence that impacted parents to treat their children the way they did (social learning) in a modeling sort of pattern (Darling & Steinberg, 1993). Maccoby and Martin's (1983) Two-Dimensional Framework summarized parenting style into two dimensions: responsiveness and demandingness.

Most of these theorists arrived at similar conclusions, namely that a combination of warmth and authority was in order and most effective for child development. Most believed that 'model children' were the products of homes where parents were not only nurturing but also:

Established clear, rational guidelines whilst allowing the child autonomy within those boundaries and clearly communicated both their expectorants and the reasons behind them (Darling & Steinberg, 1993, p.489)

In this way, the social styles model not only merged psychodynamics and the learning model but also exceeded it in their emphasis on a certain equilibrated format of boundary setting characterized by clarity, consistency, and warmth. It remained for Baumrind (1996) to conceptualize this prescription, which would, in turn, shape and direct further research on a parenting style most conducive for child development.

The Authoritative Model and Importance of Boundaries

Baumrind (1996), arguably the foremost theorist on parenting styles, categorized parents according to a typology of four parenting styles: indulgent, authoritarian, authoritative, and uninvolved. Each style embodies "patterns of parental values, practices and behaviors." Indulgent parents are the very reverse of authoritative. They follow no set format or rules in disciplining their child. In fact, 'discipline is not part of their vocabulary. They are lenient, non-traditional, and believe that the child should be respected as an individual and should be allowed to develop according to the expression of his or her particular personality. Indulgent parents fall into two types: democratic parents, who, although lenient are thoroughly dedicated to the child, and nondirective parents.

Authoritarian parents demand that the children follow their rules without explanation or understanding. "They are obedient-and-status oriented, and expect their orders to be obeyed without explanation" (Baumrind, 1996). Authoritarian parents represent two kinds: non-authoritarian-directive parents who are directive, but not overly intrusive in their control of the child, and authoritarian-directive who are extremely intrusive. Authoritative parents, the third category, set clear boundaries for their child whilst also seeking growth for the child through these boundaries. Their onus is on the objective that their child develop self-esteem and social responsibility via the boundaries laid out for him. Finally, the uninvolved parent demands little of the child. In its extreme, this stance characterizes rejection and neglect. Many researchers still base their models of parenting on her formulations and studies in order to structure their own studies on how parents control and socialize the developing child.

It has been consistently found that the best model is the third category where parents merge clear boundaries with involvement and positive reinforcement, and that this educational style helps children succeed regardless of their age level. Steinberg et al. (1992), for instance, found that authoritative parenting that consisted of supervision merged with high acceptance, and a certain degree of autonomy granted their adolescent children lead to better adolescent school performance and interest in school than did the other styles of parenting, particularly those where lack of structure and uninvovlement in the child's life was conspicuous. "Parental involvement," they concluded, " is much more likely to promote adolescent school success when it occurs in the context of an authoritative home environment" (Steinberg et al., 1992, 1266).

Baumrind's prototypic authoritative parent, as described in the third category, contains the following characteristics:

She encourages verbal give and take, and shares with the child the reasoning behind her policy. She values both expressive and instrumental attributes, both autonomous self-will and disciplined conformity. Therefore, she exerts firm control at points of parent-child divergence, but does not hem the child in with restrictions. She recognizes her own special rights as adult, but also the child's specialized interests and special ways. The authoritative parent affirms the child's present qualities, but also sets standards for future conduct. She uses reasons as well as power to achieve her objectives. She does not base her decisions on group consensus or the individual child's desires; but also does not regard herself as infallible or divinely inspired (quoted by Darling & Steinberg, 1993, p.490).

In this way, Baumrind showed that whilst setting boundaries was important for providing the child with directed, this had to be done in a balanced manner with regard too of the child's uniqueness and, most importantly, with the intention of the discipline structure emanating for the good of the child rather than for the benefit of the parent.

It was with this model in mind that, in 2004, an Effective Parenting Expo convened and discussed ways in which the community could help parents achieve more effective styles. Empirical follow up showed that certain communal activities including practical parental courses and free activities as well as support groups could greatly enhance their style as well as have a positive impact on children. Emphasis on incorporating boundaries within the context of praise was emphasized as consisting of the crux of helping parents achieve a more effective parenting style (Miller, Haffernen, & Hall, 2005).

In fact, child expert Patricia Walters-Fischer (web), noted that:

Children thrive on routine and boundaries. Unlike adults, kids aren't flexible and they think very concretely so when things are changed around or completely, kids can freak out. Although, there are events that can't be changed (i.e. weather changes so you can't go out to playdates), it's important to stay consistent and follow through.

And the famous Dr. Oz says:

Your kids want boundaries. They crave routines. They thrive within limits. And yes, they'll kick and scream, whine and moan, but that's part of the process that will enable them to develop a strong sense of self in an uncertain and frequently changing world. (Hokemeyer, P., web)

They appreciate boundaries because of the clarity that it accords their lives. "Kids know what to expect and will begin to rely on them" (ibid). But for boundaries to work, they need to be clear, consistent, and carry consequences.

Are boundaries worth the effort? Answers 'Dr. Oz':

In my personal…

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