We all know that parenting is the most challenging yet rewarding job that you can have. But do you ever feel that it is not only challenging but all consuming, stressful, or anxiety-filled? Surveys show that the most prevalent problem parents’ deal with today is NOT the internet, drugs, or even cell phones. It’s lack of physical and emotional boundaries between parent and child. Living a life without setting boundaries with your children can leave you stressed, anxiety-ridden, physically and emotionally drained, and disrespected.
Structuring a life for your child that does not include conflict or the word “no” (and not the word “no” with a 100 word explanation around it) is not only creating an unrealistic relationship between parent and child, but an unrealistic and unhealthy relationship between the child and the world around them.
Even if parents do not set boundaries with their children, the world around them will. They will hear the word “no,” people will upset them; they will be called upon to make a decision on their own. How will they do when they are met with these challenges? Not only does setting boundaries with your children improve the parent-child bond, but it prepares them for the world that awaits them.
How can you set appropriate, positive and appropriate boundaries? Try these tips:
1) Get your own “stuff” together so you can be a model for your children: Come to grips with your own feelings about authority, about boundaries and get really clear about it. It is hard to pass these values onto your children if you don’t know this about yourself!
2) Be OK with not pleasing others, especially your children: Do you neglect to set boundaries because you fear conflict or making your child or others upset? Although it may not feel good to see other people unhappy, failing to set boundaries will leave YOU feeling unhappy, taken advantage of, and stressed. How effective can you be as a parent or in life if you are constantly feeling defeated? Setting appropriate boundaries promotes emotional growth for your child but for you personally as well.
3) Talk and explain LESS: Talking endlessly to a child, especially one under the age of 14, is not conducive to establishing appropriate boundaries. If you set limits, especially the ones that you feel are most important (i.e.-safety, respect) and they are clear and age appropriate. Why give a lengthy explanation as to why they are set (see #4)? If an explanation is needed, make it short, clear, and to the point. This allows for communication, if necessary, yet still allows you to be firm in setting limits.
4) Have children under the age of 14? Set the tone for the day: Children under 14 need firm boundaries and a lot of guidance. Allowing a very young child to call the shots for the schedule or their daily routine or other things, puts undue stress and pressure on them (and YOU!) because they do not have the experience or full cognitive ability to be efficient decision makers.
Practice setting boundaries daily! Happy boundary Setting!
Gagan Dhaliwal is a physician and psychiatrist and interested in learning and sharing knowledge of brain and mind and how it impacts our ability to tap into our intellectual and emotional potential and achieve success and happiness