One thing I said in a previous post is that some families I know have not hardly any boundaries that their child has to adhere to. I actually am abig believer in boundaries because I think that boundaries promote health. This is how boundaries help a child become a functioning adult:
- Children need to learn to take responsibility (ownership) for things. In my family, I have talked a lot about the principle of Ultimate Responsibility, which I think came from the military realm. We have no reason to argue over fault, we just work together as a team to fix it. We take responsibility to help even if we didn’t cause the problem. Responsibility is ownership for oneself in addition to outside things. Ownership leads to a sense of freedom, because we have choices to fix things, problem solve, work with others, or walk away.
- Boundaries free us from people who treat us poorly or who are toxic. We know where we begin and end, and that these other people are separate and not our responsibility to carry.
- Life choices have consequences, and trying to meet a boundary that is in line with a family value requires choices. I think this is important. Life is full of things not so good, but also can be full of many great things, which can make it hard to choose.
- Boundaries help people grow and meet opportunities instead of complaining about problems. Positivity promotes health!
So, without further ado, here are a few steps to boundaries.
- Figure out your family’s VALUES. Which values do you want your children to internalize in order to be a “successful” (in whatever way that means to your family) adult?
- What your values are will influence some of the areas you could place boundaries, such as:
Connection – with family members, extended family members, friends, peers? How important are sibling relationships over peers? Nuclear family over extended family? How do you show respect in your family to each other? What do the adults feel is respectful?
Sleep/Rest – Will there be bedtimes? Rest times? Quiet times? Is sleeping in okay? On what days? If you safely co-sleep with your littles, when does that stop? What happens at night when children are older and awake and staying up late – are you all together, do you need to be with your teens at night, is it adult time?
Health Food/Eating – snacks allowed or not? Can you eat in the living room? What happens if a child doesn’t eat all of his or her food? Sweets allowed or not? Special diets and why? Along this line, are physical activities important or not?
Chores – does everyone have to help with the nurturing of the home? Is this only mom’s job? What is the role of the other adults in the house? What are the children’s responsibilities and at what ages?
Outside Activities – whose activities count? Only the adults? Only the children? Both? How? How many? Are there days you must be home? Are there limits on activities? Some families seem to have a hard time staying home even one day, and some families seem to have a hard time leaving their home. What is the balance?
Spiritual Practice/ Attendance at a place of worship – Important? Not important? What if it is important to the adults but not teenagers, etc.
Sibling Relationships – Important to spend time together or not? Siblings before peers? Lots of time away from home with peers or not? At what age?
Intimate relationships -Starting with peers – how do we treat our friends? How do we expect our friends to treat us? What constitutes bullying? Sleepovers or no sleepovers? How many days a week with peers versus just with the family? When children move into the teenaged years – dating? Not dating? What constitutes a healthy and respectful dating relationship? (Did you know that ten percent of high school teens are reporting physical violence in their dating relationships in the United States?) How to handle the physical side of intimate relationships? At what age is dating allowed? The use of technology in communicating in an intimate relationship and respect around this – what does that look like?
Technology – Allowed, not allowed, what age, what platforms? Does the phone or computer have restrictions or rest times for devices or both? How old does a child have to be to receive the responsibility of a phone or computer? How will they show that responsibility? Gaming or no gaming?
Holidays/Gift-giving: How many gifts? Extended family? What is the role of children with extended family during get-togethers? Included? The children weave and out? The children go off together?
Homework/Homeschool – What are the boundaries around doing homework or schoolwork?
Those are just some areas I thought of; I am sure there are many more. I would love to hear boundaries that you think of!
3. When the boundary is met or unmet, what happens? This is usually the part that parents equate with “discipline” (ie, punishment). But is there more to it than that? I think there is because really discipline is authentic leadership and guiding your children and knowing how the boundaries you set are not arbitrary but fit into your value system.
Just food for thought on a Monday morning.