How often do you find yourself asking your child to do something they don’t want to do, or asking them to not do something they want to do?
Let me venture a guess – it feels like it is way too often...
One of my favourite quotes about parenting from Janet Lansbury goes something like this: ‘Your child’s job is to ask for the moon and your job is to calmly and confidently explain what you are prepared and not prepared to do.’
Children need boundaries. Boundaries help children feel safe, just like the walls of your house help you feel warm and snug.
Imagine yourself in an aeroplane, you are ready to take off.
Imagined a pilot who turns up and says: ‘Dear passengers the temperature outside is -10 degrees, we will be cruising 17.000 feet high. We are ready to fly and we’ll be arriving to Lisbon at 5.30pm.’
How does it make you feel?
Imagine a pilot who says: 'I'm not sure if I can do it, perhaps I'll try again in half an hour...'
How does that make you feel?
Even though it might not feel like it sometimes, you can choose what sort of pilot-parent you will be in your aeroplane.
If you’d like to be more like that first pilot who knows that she will get you to Lisbon by 5.30pm, here are a few boundary setting tips for you.
First of all, decide where that boundary is.
Based on what you know about your child and what you think is healthy, choose where you will draw that line. If it’s about screen time: choose how long and how often your child will be in front of the screen.
It is really important to choose the boundary that you feel is right and helpful for your child in this particular stage of their development. It will help you to stick with it when it comes to communicating that to your child.
There is one thing I would like you to keep in mind next time you are setting a boundary and it is the most important message I would like to convey in this post - separate feelings and behaviour.
Screen time is half an hour (or whatever you choose it to be) regardless of whether your child feels happy or frustrated about it.
Boundary setting gets more complicated than it needs to be if you get invested into your child being happy about accepting that boundary or can’t face your child’s upset. Sitting with your child’s upset might be incredibly testing. When you know that the upset came about from the boundary being set by you (= you seem to be the source of the upset) it can be even harder.
But what is the alternative? What happens when it is really important to you that your child is happy with the boundary?
- You might act like that second pilot and avoid setting the boundary.
- You might not be available to help your child organise their anger/frustration/disappointment and leave them on their own with those feelings.
So here are my three easier-said-than-done steps to setting a clear and loving boundary:
1. Choose a boundary that feels good to you.
2. Communicate clearly, confidently and kindly about what's about to happen (‘We’ll watch one episode of H2O tonight.’)
3. Welcome and stay available to your child’s feelings when it’s time to turn your device off:
- I know you would love to find out what happens next.
- I hear you think I’m being an unreasonable meany.
- You feel like you hate me right now.
Sit with it for as long as you can manage or until your child’s emotions subside and they move on to something else.
The best bit - at the end of it you might notice that you have connected with your child in a way you have not done before.
P.s. If you would like support to implement those ideas in your day-to-day parenting – head to my calendar to book a consultation.