Stucture: Lets build a house:)

Written by Dr. Carosso
Parents are often directed by professionals like me to provide “structure” for their child, which is said to be a benefit to the child’s overall development.  However, do you know what “structure” means?  This often-used term is usually misunderstood and trying to define precisely what professionals mean when they say “structure” is often tough to pin-down.

Okay, so here goes my try at it: one way to perceive “structure” is to compare the term with  a “building” or “house” within which there are walls, doors, windows, and other “boundaries” that show us where and how we can go.  Walls stop us in our tracks (no one likes to walk into a wall), while windows and doors provide fresh air and a way out. 

In the same way, limit-setting by parents provides “walls” that stop children from problematic behavior that could cause them harm. Doors would be those parent-provided openings for potential freedoms (when the door is open).  The younger the child, typically the more there are “walls” and “doors.” 

‘Structures’, such as our home, provide a sense of security for kids and parents alike. However, by the same token, at times those same walls and doors can make us feel “claustrophobic”, which necessitates time for going outside away from those confines of walls and doors. 

In a similar manner, at times, limit-setting needs to be reduced and children need to be provided freedom (especially as they grow older); a balanced approach to providing structure (limit-setting) and going outside (freedom) is vital.  Moreover, as a child grows older, the walls tend to come down, and doors open, so long as the youth is responsible, trustworthy, and maturely handling the increased levels of freedom. 

The complexity of parenthood is maintaining that proper balance between walls, doors, windows, and being outside (so to speak). 

In future blogs, I will be presenting on how to set limits (put up walls) in a manner that elicits a willing response from your child, as opposed to your child attempting to put holes in the walls, either figuratively or literally:)  

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Dr. John Carosso

Dr. Carosso has more than 30 years of experience as a licensed Child Clinical Psychologist and Certified School Psychologist working in private, inpatient, outpatient, residential, school, and home settings. He is Clinical Director of Community Psychiatric Centers (, a licensed Behavioral Health Outpatient Clinic, and operates both the Autism Center of Pittsburgh ( and the Dyslexia Diagnostic and Treatment Center (