Boundaries - What's in them anyway?

boundaries connection Aug 18, 2016

Invisible Lines

Good fences make good neighbours, the saying goes. The same may be said for children. Boundaries are the invisible lines that concerned, loving and insightful parents hopefully put in place in those instances when we know something will no longer serve our children or those around them.

They are the lollipop man of parenting. They are concerned with our children's welfare and they are strong and non-negotiable yet they are not meant to hurt our children. They are rather meant to keep them from hurt.

Often parents feel boundaries need to be applied as a little like shock collar treatment -

if children step out of line then they get a zzzzt zzzzt so they learn to stay in line... this often looks like one or a combination of smacking, gating or grounding, fining, taking treats away or time out.

All of which apply pain to enforce the boundary with the belief that if there is enough pain the boundary will be respected.

Science is showing us that this not only breaks connection - which, we suggest, is the key to successful parenting. It also creates compliance for the wrong reason.

The motivation is to avoid the pain rather than to understand the boundary and respect it. Many times it gets results in the short term, but is it effective in the long term?

Loving, connected enforcement
Can you consider that boundaries can be enforced lovingly? That a combination of repetitive conversations, strong but kind words and natural consequences can enforce boundaries? That we can say

  • “Sorry, I love you and no, you may not have the sweet / use your phone now / stay up late / delay doing your homework.." etc.
  • That we can ride out the storm of their possible defiance and hold our ‘no'.
  • That we can offer a statement of natural consequence like ‘If we can’t finish homework now there will be no time left in the day for TV later unfortunately’.
  • “If there is so much fighting going on between you two then Mommy is going to run out of petrol(energy) to take you for a play in the park later”
  • “If you battle to share / turn the TV off when you need to / read for long enough in the evening…. then we will just have to adapt how we do things in this house to allow this to happen.”

If children don’t kick up against a boundary then you know you haven’t set a strong enough one - they are meant to kick up against them. This is how they know that they are there. Once they have tested it enough times and it hasn’t relented they can relax in the safety that it provides. Our job is to hold the boundary lovingly knowing that it creates a sense of safety and security.

"And" replaces "but"
Our challenge is to do this without breaking connection.

  • Try this; “I love you, I am sorry and it is still no.” and
  • “It would be irresponsible of me as you parent to let that happen as I am here to look after you so I love you and no”.
  • Remove all ‘buts’ from your sentences and replace them with ‘ands’.

Lastly, select your boundaries carefully and thoughtfully and then marry them. Rather have fewer immovable boundaries than many that keep getting pushed over or out.

Boundaries are essential to our children’s optimal development, we all need them, even us as adults. Let the loving protection flow.

Upcoming Signature Parenting Course

Term 3, Ballito, North Coast
Venue: Ashton International College
Dates: Monday - 12, 19 September, 17, 24 October
Time: 6pm - 9pm

Term 4, Umhlanga, Durban
Venue: Kingfisher Lodge, Mount Edgecombe
Dates: Thursday - 27 October, 3, 10, 17 November
Time: 6pm - 9pm

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