Fairness Without Fear: How To Strike A Balance With Boundary Setting
Children need boundaries to understand what’s right and wrong and to protect and shield them, but setting rules is not always a walk in the park for parents. Laying down the law and making sure children know the boundaries can be challenging, especially when it comes to striking the right balance. You want to ensure fairness without instilling fear in your children. If you’re struggling, here are some useful tips for effective boundary setting.
Children learn from their parents, and often, they hang on every word. When you’re talking about boundaries, or you’re discussing what you expect from your kids, make sure you use clear descriptions, language that is easy to understand and interpret and direct instructions. You don’t want your children to be confused about what they are expected to do, as this creates grey areas. Be clear about the boundaries, encourage your children to ask questions, and be succinct when you respond. If your kids don’t really understand what you’re saying, they may unwittingly push those boundaries or feel anxious or worried about whether they’ve misinterpreted the rules.
It’s crucial to communicate with children from a young age. Speak about house rules, talk about discipline and make sure they fully understand what you’re talking about in terms of setting boundaries. Make time to chat with your kids, and ensure that you’re accessible. If you’re talking, don’t get distracted. If you’ve told teens to limit screen time, for example, you don’t want to be talking to them at the same time as checking your emails or messages. Use language that is age-appropriate and encourage your kids to come to you if they have any queries. We often focus on verbal communication, but your body language is also really important. If you’re disciplining a sensitive child, for example, you need to show that you’re not messing around, but also that you’re there to help and support your child.
Consistency is key when discussing rules and teaching your children about how you expect them to behave. If you chop and change, and you have different reactions to the same problems on different days, this can blur the lines and create confusion. If you have a toddler, for example, you can’t get cross about them jumping on the bed if you let them yesterday, even if you told them off for doing it last week.
When you set boundaries as a parent, you do so with the best intentions. Children don’t always understand this, and they may think that you’re trying to eliminate fun from their day. Explain to your kids why you make the decisions you make, teach them about safety and talk to them about how their actions affect others. If they have an understanding of why the rules are in place, they may be less likely to break or challenge them.
All children need boundaries, but setting those limits and enforcing rules is not always a straightforward task for parents. If you’re talking to your children about boundaries and behaviour, make sure you’re clear about what you expect, use simple language, talk to your children and offer explanations, and be consistent.