There’s so much advice around parenting these days that it would make any person’s head spin. From controlled crying and co-sleeping for babies to freerange and helicopter parenting – is there really one ‘right’ way to bring up a kid?
Throughout time, there’s been one ‘technique’ that is almost guaranteed to work on almost any child! You’ve heard it before, it’s called boundaries! Some may think this is limiting to a child but when they understand their limits, they actually feel a lot more liberated. It’s weird that way!
What are boundaries?
Put simply, limits and expectations coupled with consequences. For example, you might say “If you don’t clean up your room before bedtime, you’ll miss out on the iPad in the morning.” Then the big challenge is to follow through if they don’t get it done. This is not a form of behaviour control more than teaching kids to take responsibility for their own actions which they’ll have to do as adults eventually anyway. It’s about also giving them skills for later in life when expectations of bosses and consequences are a lot more serious.
How to follow through
This is a tough one. It always helps to have your partner on board with this if possible. Firstly, make sure the consequence you’ve created is fair and achievable. It also has to impact the child otherwise they’re not going to take it seriously. For example, if you child loves TV then taking that away will have more impact than banning them from outdoor play. If your child is a visual learner, it may be a good idea to write down expectations/consequences so they remember. This is especially handy when it’s an issue that’s been going on for a long time or if they’re a little vague.
Will boundaries limit their development?
Some parents are worried that setting limits will stunt their child’s creativity or personality. The truth is actually the opposite. Boundaries free children to be the best version of themselves. They need their parents to be in control so they feel safe to explore, learn and challenge themselves without worrying about when to stop. Of course, as kids get older, it’s helpful to teach them to how to set their own limits and stick to them but don’t start this too early.
When is it ok for a boundary to be pushed or broken? There are times when consequences actually aren’t appropriate. If you’ve set harsh boundaries or expectations that are too high for your child, it’s ok to change them. Kids need to know that their parents make mistakes too! The important thing is consistency – so if you’re often setting boundaries then taking them away, your child may not trust the boundary. Of course kids are going to push and try and break through or negotiate their way out of a boundary but remember that these limits are actually an act of love, not a mean controlling roadblock.