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Setting Boundaries with Your Child

Parent guilt is the real deal.  As parents, we often feel torn in different directions, as though we are not committing 100% to everything that we need to be. We feel bad when we are working because we should be with our kids, and then feel bad when we take “me” time because there is housework to be done. We feel bad when we are with our kids because the work reports are overdue, and then feel bad when we miss out on the PTA meeting. The reasons are seemingly endless.

Added to this is the myth in our society, that as parents, we should not discipline our child because this takes away from his or her development and voice as a person.  Not only is this false, but the exact opposite is true.  Each child is unique and may need specific strategies for discipline, but every child thrives on structure and boundaries.  Part of the developmental role of the child is to learn how to integrate into society, and explore and challenge boundaries in a safe environment.  And part of our role as parents is to create that environment for our children.

A balance exists between authoritative parenting, mindfulness parenting, and child-driven parenting.  Children should not be given everything, even though this may make parenting harder in the short term.  Yes, it is much easier to give your child that coveted Nintendo switch. It will be something they can play with while you have quiet time, and plus you were out late last week and they were upset, right?

As we all know, however, that is not how the real world works.  Giving our children everything leads can lead to unmotivated or entitled children, who do not understand consequences or the benefits of working hard.  Plus, accruing more things is the opposite of the minimalist and Hygge movements we love so much.

The first step in setting boundaries is defining rules.  Have a family meeting and discuss what those rules should be, and ideally, everyone should agree.  Include your child in on the discussion of what the rules are, why they are important, and what the consequences will be if they are broken.  Post the rules somewhere in a public place in your home, where they are visible for everyone.

Now, here comes the hard part: follow through with the consequences!  If your child says something mean to a sibling, or disrespects you, follow through with the consequence. I f the consequence is no screen time for a day, so be it.  They are going to cry, they may scream, they may tantrum.  This is normal, and stick to your commitment.  The next time they are about to break the rule, they will think twice.  It’s when we are confusing and inconsistent that children are more likely to continue breaking the rules.  Rules have to be enforced 100% of the time in order for them to be remembered.

When your child is upset, and frustrated, VALIDATE their feelings.  Give them the words to communicate better, such as, “I know you are frustrated. It is hard to lose something we want. It is frustrating to have a consequence. It is OK that you are upset.”  As Children respond well to touch, you can hug your child, supporting them (both physically and emotionally) through the reality that they are struggling with that internal feeling of regret.

Create a “calm down corner” if they are upset. Have an area of your house with some calming items such as these:

When all is done, stop talking about it.  You set the rules and they broke the rule. You disciplined, discussed, and they learned – DONE.  Don’t bring it up in the next fight, and don’t remind them of it the next time they make a mistake.  Kids are kids after all, and they are going to mess up.  It’s our job to set the boundaries and rules for them to learn by.  Setting up this simple reward system will reinforce the rules.

Boundaries are the way we teach our children right from wrong.  This is how we help them listen to their inner conscious, and teach them moral standing.  The rules are different for each child and each household.  But as a parent, you can’t feel bad for enforcing them.