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How Can No Structure or Rules Affect Young Children?

by Tiffany Raiford, studioD

Without rules, children do not learn the appropriate way to behave. Without structure, children do not develop security or the ability to master self-discipline. In a nutshell, these are precisely the reasons why it is vital to provide your young children with both structure and rules. As a parent, your job is to teach your children how to behave and how to learn, and to provide them with a sense of confidence and security. Without rules and structure, it becomes virtually impossible to do that.

Safety and Security

According to Dr. Laura Markham, a psychologist and owner of the Aha! Parenting website, young children need structure to feel safe and secure. A scheduled routine teaches children that they are safe, and that you are there to care for them. Additionally, it also teaches them the art of mastering their own lives and schedules as they grow. Without structure, your child is left with the unknown, which is scary for kids this young. Not knowing what to expect out of each day can cause your child to have fear and uncertainty, and it can prevent them from learning to create their own structure and routine.

Lack of Structure

If your child does not have structure, you are more likely to experience a greater number of power struggles with her, states Markham. For example, when your child has a routine, the tasks he performs at a set time each day become automatic, like brushing his teeth before bed. If you don’t establish this type of structure with him, he will feel that you are bossing him around, which may create the need for him to exert his power and he may refuse to take care of his own basic hygiene or care. With structure, he accepts that there are certain things he must do, like brushing his teeth, to keep himself healthy.

Safety Through Rules

When you think about why you should make rules for your kids, you might realize that rules keep your kids safe. According to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, young children need rules to keep them safe. For example, you implement rules so that they know it is not safe to accept candy or rides from strangers. Young children are very trusting, and often this trust includes strangers, and without rules, young children do not always learn the difference between safety and danger, which could have serious implications should your young child decide to accept candy or a ride from a complete stranger.

Young Children Need Rules

The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry states that children learn by having rules in their lives. If your child doesn’t have any rules, he doesn’t have boundaries teaching him the difference between right and wrong, how to behave at home, in school and with others, that hard work and dedication pay off and that school work is important. When your child doesn’t have rules, he’s not accountable for his actions, he doesn’t learn responsibility and he is more likely to engage in dangerous behavior. For example, if you don’t implement a rule stating what time he needs to go to bed each night, he may stay up all night long playing with his toys and not be able to function at school the next day, which means he’s not learning to take care of himself and manage his time to suit his everyday activities.

About the Author

Tiffany Raiford has several years of experience writing freelance. Her writing focuses primarily on articles relating to parenting, pregnancy and travel. Raiford is a graduate of Saint Petersburg College in Florida.

Photo Credits

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