Setting Boundaries With Kids

Our Marriage and Family Therapist, Kelly Hoffman, MS, explained that whining, button pushing, disrespect and trouble making are all signs of kids with boundary issues. Summer time is a prime time for parents to be faced with LOTS of boundary issues. Kids are used to school rules, but what exactly are the home rules, and how can I get around them?

Why do kids need boundaries? Because like it or not, we are communicating limits to our kids at all times. Setting boundaries is the proactive way to create the family you want. Whether you have a toddler or a teen, boundaries are the way you set your child up to succeed in your family, in school, and in life.

What are boundaries? Classic definition = something you run against and pushes back at you. Too many times parents make THEMSELVES the boundaries, usually in an attempt to save their child embarrassment or pain. Allowing children and teens to run against natural boundaries enables them to learn that while they can control their actions, they cannot control the consequences. (That is unless you, the parent, have the habit of stepping in)

You do want to set a boundary (an obstacle) but you do NOT want to be the boundary. You want your children beating their stubborn little heads against something other than you. Because it may take a while for them to get the point, and who wants to let someone pound on them?

1. Drawing The Line - Here’s your first step, and the one that most parents just do not know how to do well. Drawing the line is not a threat, it is not anger, it is not the use of force. Drawing the line is CLEARLY outlining the boundary for your kids along with letting them know what the new wall will be.

2. The Shutdown - Sometimes when you set a boundary, especially if there haven’t been boundaries before, people, especially kid people, fight back. The temptation can be to match and beat their anger with your anger. The shutdown is what I call the technique of letting it drop. Turn around and walk away. Instead of pouring energy into an argument to make sure that your rules are enforced, just … enforce the rules. No need to argue about it. The officer handing you a ticket doesn’t apologize for giving you the ticket.

3. The Turnaround - At this point you have set the boundary, you walked away when they got overly angry, upset, started banging their heads against you. Now is the time to start empathizing and explaining, but you must do it like you’ve never done it before. The point of this step is not to reset the boundary but to have them KNOW that you are setting the boundary because you love them and you think its best. Do not say “I love you and this is best for you and some day you will thank me for this”. What you DO do, is try to see things from their side, and just make one or two comments. “I bet you are really disappointed?” Then let them rant. Just listen and honestly try to see their side with no judgment. You will be amazed at how this attitude of teamwork and togetherness will turn the argument

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