When you think of BOUNDARIES what comes to mind?
In the context of your work how are boundaries instilled and maintained? What is their purpose?
What about in the context of your relationships, friendships?
What about the boundaries you have in place for your children? Do you have boundaries clearly set out for your kids? Or are you ‘loosey goosey’ with them? Many parents have a hard time with boundaries and it’s quite a big subject on any parent’s mind. I’ll try to deconstruct as best I can here so that you can understand why boundaries may be a challenge for you, and if that’s the case, what you can do to shift your energy on this subject.
So here we go…
Boundaries are very important in a child’s life. It helps them to be clear on what is expected of them and what is not appropriate. It is NOT a form of discipline or being heavy handed with your child. It does not include ‘Time Out’ or ‘naughty chairs’ or ‘facing the wall’ etc. This form of discipline, in my opinion, only creates a bigger rift in the relationship with your child and builds resentment in them for their parents making it harder to communicate in a peaceful, connecting way. Creating DISCONNECTION instead of CONNECTION.
Think of boundaries as being the lines of a square box. The child is free to move within that box and complete tasks and activities asked of him in the way he chooses that are within those boundaries. This way, the child’s spirit is free to express itself and also senses the safety and security installed by the boundary-making process from the parents. This doesn’t mean that the child will be happy with the boundary. Make no mistake, you will find resistance. But that’s ok. We’ll get back to this.
Now on the other hand, a child without any boundaries will be confused in the amount of freedom he has been given and will bounce every which way, getting up to all sorts of things and behaviors which will be ‘screaming’ to the parents to review their parenting style, begging them to instill some boundaries that echo to the child ‘we care about you and your safety; we value your freedom of expression and we definitely hear your voice; you are seen and you matter to us;’ etc.
I myself have struggled many times on my parenting journey, with boundary setting because like everyone, I want my child to like me! And most times boundaries have the opposite outcome (albeit short term).
Wanting my child to like me is not my child’s issue. It’s mine. If a parent has a problem with boundary setting it’s up to the parent to work out why. And since I am on the Conscious Parenting path, I often take time to dig into my inner self to understand the reason I am not always comfortable with the boundary… and what I find usually takes me back to my own childhood. For example, I sometimes have a hard time setting a boundary on screen time. As a child, my sisters and I had as much TV time as we wanted. And it was A LOT! We literally had NO limit as to the amount of TV and movies we could watch. IT WAS GREAT FUN!!! But, knowing what we know now about screens and all the added stress from other technology in our lives, obviously a boundary has to be set on the amount of screen my kids watch… in this case our 6yr old son. Additionally, the quality of children’s TV back then compared to what it is now is a huge difference. There is no way I could allow my child in this day and age to have free access to whatever TV or screen time he wanted without checking on him.
So in trying to instill this boundary with my son, I get a lot of flack from him. And sometimes I back down because I don’t want to hurt his feelings, because I want to be liked, because I want to be the fun parent etc. And the idea of ‘I turned out ok’ also influences me sometimes. Whenever this happens and I let the boundaries start to slide, my kid turns into someone else’s kid. He gets aggressive. He gets overly cheeky. He yells. He screams. He gets aggressive with his baby sister. All this because I failed to stick to my boundary and let him watch a little bit too much TV. His inappropriate behavior is screaming to me to pull in the reigns and review the situation. His behavior is saying ‘this is too much free TV time. I need to be physical and burn off my energy. I want to be outside. Let’s do something together. … etc. etc.’
In short, my own feelings of lack, created from my childhood affect the way I raise my children. And only when I tune into my awareness do I pick these things up on my inner radar. When I’m running on autopilot, unaware, tired, irritated, frustrated…. All this slips by me. Then guilt comes in and keeps me some company until I shake it off, go within and find my answers.
My point is this. BOUNDARIES ARE IMPERATIVE when raising humans. Punishment is not.
Awareness helps to navigate the parenting journey and guide you through your child’s prompts on where you still need to grow and evolve. Listen to your inner voice. Be your child’s parent, not their friend. Do the inner work required so you can stop offloading onto your child.
When setting a boundary, it’s a good idea to be aware of the AGENDA behind the boundary too. Explain this to your child. Is it to keep them healthy? Is it to keep them safe? Is it to create more space for play? Etc. Evaluate your reasons for the boundary and then present it to your child if they are of age to understand. If they are small, speak in plain language in a neutral tone. It may need to be repeated. And always always extend the boundary with love.
If you’re afraid of how your child will respond to the set boundary, then you need to work on that fear. Why on earth are you afraid of your child’s response? What in your past has created the belief that children should never be disappointed, should never cry, should always be happy, given everything they want and live a perfect life? Maybe your parents were too strict with you and you don’t want to do the same with your child and it’s difficult finding the middle ground? Take the time to do the work. You’ll be amazed what you’ll find.
Always with love