Boundaries that don’t “invite” my child to break them (Or see me as a dictator/losing face)

AgreementSetting boundaries with teens and younger childen that your child will keep and you as the parent can enforce, is one of the biggest challenges facing parents today.  These handy tips may assist to keep you all on track:


1.     Have the kids help with setting boundaries

Instead of just dictating certain boundaries to your child, you may find that if they are involved in their conception, they will then find them easier to adhere to and live by.


2.     Have them written down

Gather as a family and write them down.  Allow each family member to contribute one or two rules, ending up with a maximum of ten in total. This way, there aren’t too many for smaller children to remember.


3.     Have each member of the household sign the rules

Signing is like creating a binding contract; your signatures indicate that you are all happy to abide by the rules of the house.  This also allows your child to take on a sense of ownership. Remind them that in society we all have to abide by certain rules and our house should be no different.


4.     Keep them on display

Once the ground rules have been set, put them on display.  Ours are in the kitchen, and whenever my child breaks one of them, I simply walk over to the list of rules and remind her of her promise to abide by them.


5.     Personal boundaries

You can also agree to personal boundaries with your child.  We have rules regarding what time our child will start homework, what time she needs to be home from events, and what she needs to do if she will be late.  Another rule we have found most valuable is that she must call if she leaves the place she was originally going.  For example, if she went to a friend’s place, but now they are off to see a movie or go shopping at the local shopping centre.


6.     Breaking the boundaries

Each person needs to enforce their own personal boundaries.  When someone steps over those boundaries, you need to ‘call them on it,” meaning you should tell the person you are not happy with whatever they’ve done.  People are often surprised that they have done something wrong or unaware that they have hurt someone else’s feelings.


7.     The punishment

As for the rules, when one has been broken, allow your child to set their own form of punishment.  Often you may find yourself taken aback by how hard they are on themselves.  I always start with, “You know I love you, but I may not always love what you say or what you do. On this occasion, I am disappointed that rule number 5 has been broken. As this is a rule that you promised to adhere to, I will leave it up to you to decide on what the most suitable punishment is.” I then give her a chance to  identify something suitable within a specific  period.


8.     The arguments

As a parent, one of the biggest roles we have is to prepare our child for the real world.  She/he may argue that they have valid reasons as to why the rule was broken.  Listening at this time may help unravel their reasoning. Children, especially teens, will often implosively react, and only in hindsight can they see the error of their ways. This is learning in the school of hard knocks and a valuable lesson in building self-confidence.

If handled correctly, you can guide your child to understand how they can alter and improve their choices in the future.


9.      Update regularly

We do a regular update to see if we need to add or subtract rules on our list.  We also praise our child whenever we see she has made good choices.  Children fare much better when you acknowledge when they get things right. This, in turn, will boost their self-confidence, and in the long term, their self-esteem.


10.  Boundaries keep our children safe

All children need boundaries, as they provide safety and security. As parents, we can sometimes feel as though we are constantly knocking heads with our children, especially if you have a teenager who is trying to find their way in the world.


By enforcing your own personal boundaries and occasionally letting your child venture outside their own, this will help to navigate this often-testing time with a lot less turbulence.



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