Boundaries, Empathy, Consequences

So in order to understand how to use a three-fold model of discipline ,one must have a little background about the three terms involved:

Empathy –   Empathy can  be offered non-verbally, by holding a hand, rubbing a shoulder, hugging a child or even a smile.    It can be offered verbally by acknowledging feelings with a word or sound. All feeling are acceptable, but all behavior is not.   Empathy can be offered before or after a boundary is set, or both.   Modeling empathy is an important tool for today’s children.

There is a large push to help tiny  children “name their feelings” these days.  Helping children to name feelings, to me, is not the same as empathy.  To me, this is a separate step. Yes, it is important for older children to be able to express their feelings and know what their feelings are and how to deal with negative emotions in a self-compassionate way.   It is important to understand nuances of emotion as this is a tool for the real world and real relationships.

A back post that may help you: Changing Our Parenting Language

Boundaries – boundaries are particular to a situation/place (the rule when we are at the museum or place of worship or wherever) in society, or particular to your family’s values.   Boundaries are the rules of the house that everyone tries to abide by because we all live together and work as a team.  Boundaries should be stated calmly, and firmly, and described. (For example, “Books belong on the bookshelf, not on the floor” is a simple example of this, when a parent sees a book on the floor).   The child should never be attacked or blamed.  Sometimes  one word will suffice, especially with teenagers.  If your child always sets their smelly sneakers on your kitchen counter and you don’t want them there, you can just point and say, “Shoes!” Sometimes boundaries can be put in writing as well, and this can work well for teenagers.  If the boundary is broken, we state what the expectation (the boundary) actually is again, and decide how to proceed with consequences and restitution.  We need to proceed to this step when we are calm.

A few back posts that may help:

Boundaries for Gentle Parenting

Re-claiming Authority Part One

Consequences – The best consequences are immediate and relatable to what happened.   For small children, this is often easier than with older children.  For example, our little guy tried to hot glue gun his sister’s door shut this week.  She was unhappy with that and felt it was just an extension of him hanging outside her closed door.   So, as a consequence and restitution, the hot glue gun ended up with me, he had to write an apology note to this sister (and I had to sit with him to write it since he doesn’t write very well yet), and he had to clean the door.  Consequences often take our time, our energy, our physical help.  Yelling at a child isn’t a consquence; it shows our frustration, but the child doesn’t get much from that in terms of correcting the original problem.  And what we really are teaching through natural or logical, immediate and relatable consequences is problem- solving for when children are older and we are modeling conflict resolution skills for life.

Parenting can become much more grey the older children become, and the consequences aren’t as immediate or relatable. It is okay to take time with teenagers and think about what would be most helpful in any situation.  Consequences are not there for punishment at all, but as a logical and natural outcome of what has happened.

Restitution – While a  consequence is often external or even natural (I forgot a coat after my mom reminded me ten times, and now I am cold),  I like to think of restitution as a more internal part of the child trying to get this boundary down.  Restitution could be writing a letter of apology, fixing something that was physically broken, doing a kind deed for someone that the child has hurt.  Part of restitution with older children is also working out what will work for the future for both of you, the parent, the family, and the child.   Because when we live in a family, it isn’t just about you.   This is part of the child learn how to rule over himself.

A few back posts that may help:

How To Instill Inner Discipline In A Child

I hope that helps.

Blessings,
Carrie

 

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4 thoughts on “Boundaries, Empathy, Consequences

  1. This is such an important topic and a really, concise, thorough, well written post! Personally, I find the boundaries piece can be so difficult, because as homeschooling parents, we are answering questions and setting and holding limits, big and small, all day long. Yet, parenting this way is absolutely worth it and reaps such connection and engagement with our kids. Aha! Parenting and Hand in Hand Parenting both talk about this approach a lot in the mainstream world, if anyone needs even more resources. Thank you, Carrie, for sharing this wisdom here! Warmly, Nicola

  2. Dear Carrie, this topic is the focus for our family at the moment. We realise we have had no boundaries or consequences with our now 6 year old boy. I give him lots of empathy and compassion but I am lost as to how to implement the rest that is needed for good discipline. My hubby and I need this sort of guidance. We are hoping to do a parenting course to help us on our way. Thank you for this wonderful article. Do you have any book resources to refer us to on this topic please? Grateful for further guidance.
    Best,
    Melissa Rose Tonkin 🌹

    • Hi Melissa,
      Would you like to email me at admin@theparentingpassageway? I would love to talk to you about this in further depth.
      Book resources include the series Boundaries by Cloud and Townsend (there are references to Christianity and brief mention of spanking, so edit as you need to, but the information about boundaries is helpful; and there is one about setting boundaries with kids and separate one for setting boundaries with teens), Kids, Parents, and Power Struggles by Kurcinka, and How To Talk So Your Kids Will Listen and LIsten So Your Kids Will Talk by Faber and Mazlish. HTH Carrie

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