CFAES Give Today

Ohio State University Extension


First Grade: Setting Limits with Your Children

Backpack Buddies for February
Family and Consumer Sciences
Carol Ford Arkin, Extension Specialist—Family Life, The Ohio State University.
Betsy DeMatteo, Extension Program Coordinator—Family and Consumer Sciences, Hamilton County.

Making and keeping appropriate limits is an important part of keeping your children safe and helping them grow to be responsible and confident. As your children grow, you may find there are some times when everything goes smoothly. Other times, guiding their behavior is more challenging. The checklist below may help you to stay on track or to fine-tune your approach to setting and enforcing limits for your children.

Are your family rules simple? Avoid having too many rules or rules that are complicated. Choose rules that are necessary for your child's safety (e.g., do not leave school with anyone other than the carpool), for getting along with others (e.g., no hurtful words or actions), and for helping your children learn to be a responsible member of the household (e.g., clean up at the end of play).

Have you talked to your children about the rules? They may seem obvious to you, but do not assume children understand a rule if you have not talked with them about what you expect. Be sure to talk about the reason for the rule (e.g., their safety or respect for the rights of others), not just what not to do.

Have you talked to your children about the consequences of breaking a rule? Decide when you make a rule what the consequence will be if it is broken. The best consequences are ones that "fit the crime." For example, a consequence for not getting up for school on time might be an earlier bedtime until getting up for school happens regularly. Be sure you identify consequences you can stick with. Provide your children with a simple explanation of consequences when you discuss the rule with them. Then follow through if they break it.

Do you enforce rules calmly? A well-thought out rule and consequence should work without any added scolding from the parent. Being angry when you enforce a consequence will not help your children learn cooperation and self-control.

Do your children help make family rules? It is hard for anyone—child or adult—to be a part of a group where they cannot express opinions. Involving children in setting family rules helps them learn valuable skills to solve problems and get along with others.

To learn more about using limits and discipline to help your child become confident and self-disciplined, check out this book: Raising a Self-Disciplined Child: Help your child become more responsible, confident, and resilient by Robert Brooks and Sam Goldstein, available from your neighborhood library or a bookstore.

Nature Scavenger Hunt

A nature walk can be a real adventure for you and your child, whether it's warm or cold outside. Together you can find lots of interest in a nearby park or even your own backyard.

Plan a time when you can go slow, taking the time to observe the environment. Let your child's interests guide your pace—the goal in a nature walk is to observe and explore whatever you find interesting, not to cover a lot of ground or to provide a science lecture to your child. Talk together about what you see—encourage your child to share his or her observations.

Observe with all your senses—notice textures, sounds, and smells along with the sights.

During winter, look for tracks in the snow or other signs of birds and animals. In warmer weather, take a hula hoop with you—place the hoop on the ground and together study all that you find inside it.

Plan to make a record of your walk when you and your child return home. Together you can write in a journal or make a poster about what you observed. Take a camera with you and use photographs from your walk to illustrate your words. Or make pictures together of what you saw. Turn your nature walk into a study of the seasons by returning to the same location across different seasons.

See if you can find the following things outside and fill in the chart.

Item Where do you see it? Describe what you see:
A bird that is singing    
Something green    
Something that is rough to touch    
Something that is smooth to touch    
A hole or a nest where a critter might live    
Something that is oval in shape    
Something yellow    
A feather    
Tracks from an animal    
Something with lines on it    
Something with spots on it    
Something people use to decorate their homes    
Something not on this list    

Source: Miller, R. (November 2003). Be a Nature Detective. Cloverbud Program Curriculum Instruction Materials. 710 GPM 5.2. Ohio State University Extension.


Ashcroft, E. (n.d.) Making Realistic, Acceptable Rules. National Family Database, Penn State University.

Brooks, R., & Goldstein, S. (2007). Raising a Self-Disciplined Child: Help your child become more responsible, confident, and resilient (1st ed.). McGraw Hill.

Edited by: Rose Fisher Merkowitz, Extension Educator—Family and Consumer Sciences, Highland County; Kathy L. Jelley, Extension Educator—Family and Consumer Sciences, Brown County; and Scott Scheer, Professor and Extension Specialist—Human and Community Resource Development and 4-H Youth Development, The Ohio State University.

Revised by: Betsy DeMatteo, Extension Program Coordinator—Family and Consumer Sciences, Hamilton County.

Originally posted Dec 9, 2010.