The most important thing I have learned from my twenty years working as a child psychotherapist is that kids need to have limits and self-esteem. Both of them go hand in hand: you can’t have one without the other.Limits involve:
- Teaching your child what is right versus what is wrong, making the right choices, telling them what to do, even if they don’t want to.
- Consistency in the rules and parental expectations.
- Keeping your word, whether the promise or threat was a reward or a consequence.
There are two basic rules for limits. One is giving your child the capacity to choose and think. As Dr. Landreth teaches: “Big choices for big children, little choices for little children.” For example, you can tell a three year old who wants to have candy to choose one for now, or none at all.
The second rule is that, when a compliment is given, it needs to be closer to a fact and not an opinion. For example, instead of “You are such a good boy!”, you may say, “What you just did was such a good choice, so smart, etc…” That is what I call the self-esteem axiom!
Diana Malca-Chern, LCSW
Registered Play Therapist Supervisor