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To Love Without Permitting Everything

December 2008

To love your child is to help your child grow into a responsible adult. Therefore, it is imperative to set rules and boundaries that must be respected at home. In fact, parental guidance forms the basis for education, and if rules are explained in a language that is adapted to your child’s age, then your child will understand that not everything is permitted.

Principles to respect are as follows:

  • Your child must know what is permitted or prohibited and why.
  • Boundaries must be clear and constant. They must be reinforced in a systematic way and not according to your mood or fatigue.
  • If reprimand is necessary, it must be immediate and adapted to your child’s age and comprehension level (for example, for a 4-year-old child, four minutes of thinking while sitting on a chair).
  • It is important that parents be united and coherent with regard to rules and boundaries.


Mealtime is an important daily living activity. This is why your child must learn very early to respect rules associated to this. Do not forget that you are a role model for your child and your child will imitate your actions and behaviour.

As of the age of one year, children eat at the table (highchair or side chair). In order to ensure that family meals take place as best as possible, some basic rules must be respected.

  • Warn your child that the meal will be served in a determined amount of time, for example 5 minutes, giving your child the time to finish his/her activity.
  • Organize meals into a routine (fixed time and same place).
  • Designate a specific place at the table for your child.
  • Give your child small tasks according to his/her abilities (ex.: set the silverware, clear the dishes).
  • Create a comfortable atmosphere that encourages communication, avoiding distractions such as the television or radio. 


Sleep is vital to a child’s development. In fact, it is when your child is sleeping that:

  • Your child secretes growth hormone;
  • Your child registers in his/her memory what took place and what was learned during the day;
  • The nervous system organizes and improves itself;
  • The immune system strengthens.

Furthermore, sleep reduces risks of irritability and agitation, and enables your child to better concentrate, to be motivated and to be open to discovering and learning new things.

In order for your child to perform well, your child must have plenty and good quality sleep. Here are some tips to make your child’s transition to bed easier.

  • Put your child to bed at a fixed hour, determined according to your child’s sleep requirement and age (11 to 12 hours per day for preschool children);
  • Create a bedtime routine that will prepare your child for sleep, with the same routine patterns night after night;
  • Help your child relax;
    • For smaller children, place their blanket or favourite stuffed animal by their side;
    • Give your child a bath;
    • Talk about how the day went or about any concerns your child may have;
    • Avoid sources of excitement and stimulation (for example, eating sweets and watching television programs that are inappropriate for your child’s age);
    • Read a story with mommy or daddy;
    • Always have your child sleep in the same place; in an airy, calming and reassuring room surrounded by familiar objects. 

What to do if your child wakes up repeatedly?

  • Hold your child’s hand as you accompany him/her back to bed, and avoid taking your child into your arms;
  • Remain firm, telling your child that it is time to sleep and to have a good night;
  • Avoid giving into too many demands;
  • Prevent demands and waking up at night by creating rituals before going to bed (ex.: going to the bathroom, drinking a glass of water, giving a hug…). 

What to do if your child is scared?

  •  Provide reassurance and comfort when your child has a nightmare, or if your child is scared of the dark or of monsters;
  • Talk to your child in a soft and calming voice while caressing your child’s hair;
  • Invite your child to quickly go back to sleep (this means to avoid taking your child into your arms and taking your child out of his/her room);
    • Avoid sleeping with your child whether it is in your child’s bed or in your own bed;
    • Put on a night light or leave the door slightly open. 

What to do if your child throws a fit at bedtime?

  • Wait a certain moment before going to see your child in his/her room (5 to 10 minutes depending on your level of tolerance);
  • Remind your child, in a firm but calm way, that it is time to sleep and leave the room (repeat this, extending your response time by 5 minutes each time);
  • Avoid taking your child into your arms and taking your child out of his/her room;
  • Be patient, firm and calm. This will have a reassuring effect on your child and will make him/her understand that you are determined and you are the one who has control and not him/her. You are a role model for your child; your child learns a lot by watching and imitating you. 


We would like to thank Suzanne Bouvier and Sylviane Chaurand, Special Education Teachers, Program for Motor Development Disorders, and Claudie Charron, Psychologist, Rehabilitation Program for Motor Disabilities, of the CRME service centre in Laval, for their close collaboration in producing this capsule. 

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Updated on 3/20/2015
Created on 1/20/2015
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