How To Establish Boundaries With Your Children
To establish boundaries with your children in a healthy and constructive way, it is essential first to understand that how and when you do this makes all the difference.
To successfully lead children to behave within appropriate boundaries in the first six years of life requires a different approach compared with working with children oder than six.
When you attempt to set boundaries with children under six, remember that what you DO carries far more weight than what you say. Not until around the age of four-and-a-half does providing reasonable explanation demonstrate much influence over child behavior.
Keep the following in mind when you need to set limits on behavior with children under six:
1. Provide the child with as much freedom as possible to explore her world and exercise her abilities. If you attempt to impose boundaries more than necessary, you aggravate the child needlessly and cause the child to rebel, defy, and possibly even to engage in destructive behavior.
2. Remember the purpose of setting behavior boundaries. It is not to "teach the child to listen to you" but to prepare the child for making responsible choices on his own. Therefore, do not impose a boundary just to prove "who's in charge".
3. Especially for children under the age of six, your most powerful influence is in bonding. The child needs to feel deeply secure about your love to behave well. Therefore, when you establish boundaries with children in this stage of development, remain calm and loving. Any expressing of anger or annoyance from the parent incites worse behavior from the child.
4. Another powerful influence of yours is modelling. When you attempt to establish boundaries, be sure to do so in a mode that MODELS remaining in your own healthy boundaries. Since reactions of anger and stress are really not good for you, you overstep your own healthy boundaries when you react with anger and stress.
5. The most common mistake parents make when they attempt to when it comes to child behavior boundaries is confusing angry scolding, yelling or hitting with constructive child discipline. The more a parent uses these negative ways of relating with children, the more "out of bounds" the child's behavior is bound to be.
Whatever the age of your child, the time to step in and take charge is when it is in the child's best interest for you to do so. Being overly controlling with a child is a counter-productive as giving a child too much freedom. You need to observe each child carefully to see how much freedom that child can responsibly handle without your intervention.
The more we need to establish boundaries with our children, the more the child is expressing a need for involvement BEFORE his behavior goes too far. Sometimes, it is best to overlook the child's behavior, to let him find his own way. When you do need to get involved, get involved in a positive, loving way. You can use play to establish boundaries with children in a way they don't even realize it is happening. For instance, if your child is running wildly indoors, you might play a FREEZE game. When you call out "freeze", he has to stop and be still while you count to seven. This leads the child from wildness to self-control in a loving way.
When a children feel loved, when they feel that they have the attention and involvement from you that they need, you will have less of a need to establish boundaries with those children, because they will responsibly establish more of their own.
To learn more about how to establish boundaries with children, read Bob Lancer's Parenting With Love, Without Anger or Stress, and/or listen to the amazingly powerful and practical CD, How To Establish Your Authority.