Imposing rules so children feel secure?

Doreen F.

From the archives: The original post was posted on

A Poster wrote:

“I often hear people say (including a number of child psychologists etc.) that ‘some rules and limitations (to the child) are needed so that a child can feel secure’.”

I take the view that what helps someone (of any age) to feel secure is a very individual matter. And the person who knows best what is helping them to feel secure is the person himself.

Many people of many ages will make rules for themselves at times – set up bedtimes for themselves, wake up times, limit certain foods or drinks, etc. or in some other way schedule their own lives.

However, something (i.e. a “rule”) that is imposed upon someone (against their will or desire), for the purpose of helping someone to feel secure, is ludicrous. If I expressly don’t want something, yet it is imposed upon me anyway, how does that help me to feel secure? I would think the opposite would be true.

I think that our parenting culture has a long history of thinking about and treating children as second class citizens or worse. Part of that culture is making up reasons why coercing them is a good thing (they really need to be coerced, they really need rules and limitations, it is for their own good, etc.) and trying to convince ourselves that we have no choice but to coerce or to hurt our children, as a way of denying that we are really about controlling them.

I would think what would really help someone (especially someone who is in the dependent state that a child is in) to feel “secure” would be knowing that someone (parent) would be there devoted to helping that child get what s/he wants in good ways, to sort things out, to discuss things with when that is wanted, to HELP the child in the ways that the child wants help. This is a completely different mindset from the mindset of imposing rules and limitations.

Doreen F., 2003, ‘Imposing rules so children feel secure?’,