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10 Reasons Kids Don’t Stick to Limits Set By Parents (And What to Do)

by | Parenting

Last updated Jan 25, 2022 | Published on Jan 24, 2022

Kids are not perfect, and so are bound to make mistakes and not stick to limits set by parents, to cross certain boundaries, once in a while. This is normal and should be expected by every parent. 

However, it ought to become a cause for concern when your kids make a habit of not sticking to their limits and crossing the boundaries set by their parents. 

When children refuse to stick to limits set by parents, it is an indicator that something is wrong somewhere. It may be a problem from the child, from the parent, or from both parties. 

Whatever the case, solving the problem of kids crossing boundaries requires understanding the root cause of the behavior. 

So, here are ten likely reasons kids don’t stick to limits set by their parents:

1. Both parents do not respect each other

Yes, it might just be your fault here.

Kids learn by watching those around them, you see. At school, they will learn by watching their teachers. And at home, they will learn by watching their parents. 

The manner in which parents relate with each other teaches kids how to relate to the world. 

Parents who respect themselves, who speak to each other with love, will groom children who respect others. 

But, parents who are always at loggerheads will most probably groom children who are defiant and do not stick to limits.

If a child watches his mother defies his father, he will someday do the same—vice versa. 

Do not yell at your partners before your kids, nor use abusive words on them. 

Try as much as you can to create a loving environment within your home, where your child can learn good habits.

2. One parent likes to overrule the instruction of the other

Let’s imagine that your child wants to go play with other kids in the front yard. He comes to you and asks, “Daddy, can I go play with the other kids?”

“No,” You say. 

But, two minutes later, your wife and his mother come in and say, “Don’t mind your father, go play with the other kids.”

What do you think will go through the child’s mind? 

While this might seem like a weird example, it actually happens and is one of the reasons kids don’t stick to limits set by their parents. 

In the child’s mind, he will believe that he can always get away with disobeying one parent’s instruction because the other parent will support and probably shield him from punishment.

Parents should learn to speak in one voice when giving instructions to their children. 

3. Parents are not firm and consistent

Please note that by ‘firm,’ we do not mean that you should be harsh and cold to your children. In fact, we mean the direct opposite: we mean that you should be loving. 

You should not be flexible with limits that ensure your child’s safety. 

Children can sometimes be tricky and might even manipulate their parents into giving in to their demands. 

Toddlers, for example, are known to throw tantrums when their demands aren’t met. You must’ve seen this before. They will jump, make noises, throw themselves to the ground, etc. 

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The simple trick is to ignore it when your children put up behaviors like this, then explain to them later why they have to stick to the limits you set. 

Don’t give in to their crying. If you do, your kids will consider this a weakness on your part and will continue to cry whenever they want to get what they want. 

They will cross limits and cry their way out of being punished. 

4. Parents do not let children understand why they set limits

As a parent, you should try to make your kids understand why you set limits for them, or else; they will make up reasons for themselves and go on to defy you. 

For example, if you have told your kids not to play football with kids around the neighborhood, you should try to make them see why. 

Tell them that they could get injured if they play with the older kids. 

Tell them that they could sustain severe injuries if they play with sharp objects, that they could be robbed or beaten if they stay out too late. 

5. Parents do not teach children about the consequences

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One of the significant differences between kids and adults is that adults fully understand the consequences of their actions. 

Kids who will grow to become great adults have to be taught the consequences of their actions. They must be told that every action will produce a reaction. 

Children who don’t understand consequences will not stick to limits because they feel they can get away with just anything.

While teaching consequences can be done verbally, teaching kids about the consequences of their actions by not saying a lot is possible. 

You can ground them. You can punish them. You can seize their toys. This way, they will intuitively know that their toys will be seized if they stay up late. 

They will understand that to avoid this consequence; they ought to stick with limits. 

Read: [How to Retain Authority as a Parent]

6. Parents are almost never around

When parents are away from their kids for too long, these kids may just forget what it really is like to be raised in an environment where healthy boundaries are not crossed. 

For this reason, you should try as much as you can to be around your kids. Your loving presence around them will make them stick to limits. 

7. The child does not feel loved

Children who don’t feel loved by their parents will be resentful. 

If you are in the habit of punishing your kid for the slightest mistakes, the child might interpret this to mean that you do not love him. 

So, he will defy you and cross your limits because he feels all you can do is punish him. He will also raise a wall in his mind against you. 

8. The child feels tied

When setting limits, you should not suffocate your child’s curiosity. 

Children are curious and like to explore. They want to know what is on the other side of the fence, what is behind the house, what is in the dog’s cage, etc. 

Set your limits in a way that does not choke their curiosity. Allow them to explore, only not explore too much. 

If you fail to let your child explore, he may someday cross the limits you set for him. 

9. The child is hanging around the wrong people

Children are greatly influenced by their peers. If a child hangs around people who do not stick to limits, your child might learn this attitude and begin to cross the boundaries you set. 

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This is why it is important to pay close attention to the people your children hang out with. 

10. The parents don’t reward the child

It isn’t enough to punish children for bad behavior. How about you try rewarding them for good behavior?

Let’s say your child stays away from video games all day because you instructed him to. It’s only proper for you to encourage him by giving him rewards.  

This will teach the child to stick to the limits you set in the future. 

Children who are seldom rewarded, who are only punished, are likely to not stick to limits their parents set. 

Read: [Tips to Establish Parental Predictability]

How to Set Effective Limits for Kids:

Having understood why children don’t stick to limits, these five methods will help you set effective limits for your kids:

1. Communicate, don’t yell

Speaking to your kids with respect to why you want certain limits or boundaries uncrossed is an effective way to set limits. Tell them why they have to stay in, why they have to sleep on time.

They have to understand that you don’t hate them and that you only set boundaries because you love them. 

2. Promise them a reward if they put up good behavior

Kids are motivated by rewards. When you promise your children that you will reward their good behavior if they stick to the limits you set, they will stick to these limits. 

Tell them you’ll get them new toys if they get over their screaming at each other. Tell them you’ll also take them on a vacation if they keep their rooms tidy. Etc. 

3. Stick to your own boundaries

Children learn by watching adults. If you don’t stick to your own limits, they will not stick to the limits you make for them either. 

If you have told your children to return home early, try not to return home too late. Because this will make them think: ‘He is returning home late, I can do so too.’

4. Don’t disagree with your spouse before your children

When one spouse gives the kids instructions, the other should not overhaul it. Kids will seldom stick to limits set by parents who constantly oppose each other. 

If you disagree with the way your mate disciplined a kid, it is best to wait until the kid is out of hearing range before you offer your input. 

It is always recommended to present a united front, especially when disciplining children.

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5. Allow them room to explore

Try not to make your kids feel choked. Don’t drown their natural curiosity by unnecessary limits. Let your limits be those which ensure their safety, not those which drown them. 

Bottom Line

If parents make time for one another and work as a team during their child-rearing years, it will greatly benefit them and their kids. The kids will also learn to be respectful and stick to limits set by parents.

Photo by Monstera from Pexels

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By Martin Corden

Martin Corden is a certified relationship expert and a songwriter from Australia. He loves researching and writing. Martin loves finding new ways to improve and inspires others to be their best version and work together towards it. Martin has a wide range of intellectual and artistic interests.

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