It’s Okay to Set Limits

As parents today we are bombarded with advice, ideas, suggestions, and rules on how to be the best parents we can be for our children.  Some change is good; emerging research tells us more and more about human development and how our brains work, and making progress as a society is always a good thing.  Still, it can be hard to weed through the good ideas and those with good intentions that don’t really serve us or our children.


Giving children choice is important.  Respecting children as autonomous human beings is important.  We should recognize that even though they are young, their lives are not ours to live.  Their dreams are not ours to fulfill.


So, we give our kids choice.  We let them make their own decisions.  We honor their growing independence and understand that their ideas may sometimes (often) conflict with our own.  And we try to be okay with that.


But should we let our children do whatever they want all the time?  We would argue that no, that is a very different scenario.  Giving choice is one thing, neglecting to set any boundaries is something altogether different.


What do children need?

In order for a child to strengthen their sense of independence they need to be able to make their own decisions, but they need to make these within a framework that feels safe.  As kids learn and grow, they need to be able to take risks and make mistakes; after all, making mistakes is one way we learn.  It is critical, however, that we keep give our children boundaries within which they are able to make choices.


As children grow and develop, it is critical that they form bonds with adults in their lives that are trusting and secure.  Our kids really do test us sometimes; they push against the rules we set because they are seeking a sense of how strong our limits are and whether or not we mean what we say.  Giving guidance and setting boundaries isn’t just okay, it’s critical to letting our children know we are here for them and care about their well being.


In short: kids need choice.  They also need those choices to fall within limits that keep them safe, both physically and emotionally.  When they’re younger, they need fewer choices and more limits.  As they grow, we increase the choice and decrease the limits.  This way, once they are fully mature adults, they have had plenty of time to practice making decisions prior to any expectation that they actually do so successfully on their own.  Isn’t that what childhood is all about?  Human children are able to experience a joyful period of time in which we get to practice becoming a responsible adult.


What does this look like in our classrooms?

Montessori classrooms are carefully prepared environments with built-in choices and limits.  Some examples of how we achieve this balance:


What might this look like in our homes?

If your family is new to Montessori, it can sometimes take a bit of time to shift ideas and expectations.  Once you do, however, it’s hard to imagine doing things any other way.  Some ideas to get you started:



We hope this post has been helpful and inspiring.  In a world of permissive parenting and misunderstandings about what Montessori really means, it can be easy to get caught up in giving in to our children’s every desire.  The good news is, you don’t have to.  Our children look to us to be the adults in their lives.  Each and every child deserves adults who love and respect them for who they are.

« | »

Let's Schedule a Virtual Tour Today!

Schedule a phone tour with us


Phone call

Crabapple Montessori School is currently conducting 1 hour phone tours Monday through Friday at 10am, 11am, and 12pm