Do you have any articles or can you direct me to or any literature that deals specifically with the consequences for the developing child's personality of parents who don't set and/or enforce limits?
Children certainly need limits. All of our books are based on research that demonstrates that HOW limits are set and enforced is the key to the developing personalities of children. Children do not develop healthy personalities (characteristics) when parents are too strict (controlling) or too lenient (permissive). All of the parenting skills we teach in our books are designed to help children develop strength in "The Significant Seven Perceptions and Skills
" they need to become capable people. In other words, we suggest parenting methods that help children develop the life skills they need to become happy, successful, contributing members of society.
Punishment and rewards are not the way to enforce limits. (I recommend the book, Punished by Rewards
by Alfie Kohn.) This book is filled with research (usually buried in academic journals) which demonstrates conclusively that punishment and rewards do not help children develop healthy personalities. It works much better when children are involved (through family meetings
or joint problem-solving sessions) in setting limits, creating routines, and solving problems. Not only are children motivated to follow limits and routines when they have been involved in their creation, they are learning problem-solving skills. When something isn't working, we suggest that parents ask their children to put the problem on the family meeting agenda so that a solution can be found at the next family meeting. I hope this answers your question and inspires you to get your children involved in the setting and enforcement of limits—not through mandates and punishment, but through using children as the wonderful assets they are to solve problems from the time they reach the age of four.