Why Children Need Limits
Sometimes it’s hard to say ‘no’ to your children. There are those times that you are tired or busy and just need your kid to cooperate. And saying ‘yes’ is far easier than dealing with the whining and the tantrums, right?
But saying ‘no’ at the appropriate times actually helps your children learn about limits and control. Which, is how reality works. After all, do you really want a child who feels entitled and ends up becoming a spoiled brat?
We learn that in the Islamic code of upbringing, the Holy Prophet (s) has said that up until age 7, you should let your child be the ‘king.’ Does that mean you let them do whatever they want? That you end up fulfilling their every need as they order it? No, of course not.
It means you understand your child’s nature. Yes, your child will just ‘want’ and ‘want’ without understanding about limits and control. But when we are told to let our children be royalty, it’s not about just fulfilling their every material need; it is about building a foundation of love and trust. When we treat our children (when they are younger) like they are everything to us, then it automatically builds a bond of love and trust. They know they can count on us.
But as our child gets older, we adhere to the rules of love and trust, and also set limits and control. When you set limits with love and understanding, your children will listen to you. They will subconsciously appreciate it. So as your child rules the home, he is also being taught about limits.
This sets the stage for the second part of upbringing: treating your child like a slave. Now how does that work? You mean like child labor? No, of course not. But anyone with kids knows, that once you build that strong foundation of love and trust, your child will be willing to work for you. In fact all they crave is their parents’ approval! It’s not about making them work until their fingers are raw, it means helping them understand responsibilities, chores and helping at home and outside.
So setting limits actually helps children understand that different choices we make has consequences. Sometimes we run into those parents who are set on the extreme.
“My kids don’t watch TV – at all.”
“My kids can’t have sugar – at all.”
“My kids can’t drink juice – at all.”
While it is very good that a parent wants to protect their young ones from the negative effects of television, or sugar, a parent must also realize the reality of the world they are living in. Do you really think you can protect your children from a TV or sugar in this day and age? Wouldn’t it serve your children better if you taught them about limits? Because one day there will most probably be a TV in front of them. If they have never had any exposure to a screen, they might not know how to control themselves. Or if a child who never had sugar one day finds himself in front of a cookie, who is to say how they might react?
But if you teach your kids about limits, then no matter where they are in the world, or what they are confronted with, they will know how to behave. If you tell your child, “yes you can watch TV, but only for 1 hour.” Then after that one hour, they will conform without a peep. They get their way, and you get yours. Plus, you have the added benefit of teaching your child about control.
If your child wants sugar and you control their intake, they will understand that this is all they are allowed. You explain to them why so much sugar is bad for them, why they should eat healthier foods, etc.
It would be nice if we could just wipe out all the dangerous and unhealthy things from our children’s lives, but that isn’t normal. How would we ever learn how to control ourselves if we never were exposed to anything at all? God has given us aql, or wisdom, to help us, and our children, make the right choices. It is imperative that instead of leaning toward the extreme, we learn about balance and setting limits.
May God guide us and help us in raising our children using kindness, while building a foundation of love and trust.
Editor’s note: Islamic Insights is honored to host the “Raising Faith” column by esteemed guest contributor and student from Qum, Sister Samira Rizvi. Besides being a former newspaper copy editor, Rizvi is a mother of three, an author who writes for Little Muslim Books, and maintains a personal blog. Her column will focus on her experiences in tarbiyat—the upbringing of children based on Islamic values. For past articles in the column see here.