I love Chapter 14 of this book because it is about balancing boundaries and independence, which is something I think as parents we are always riding the line between, no matter what the age of our children.
Part of boundaries and setting limits, particularly for toddlers and onward could be to offer two small choices (either one acceptable), follow through on the choices (I can hold you if you sit quietly or I can put you down), and then be able to not be afraid of the child’s protest, outburst, anger, or sadness. We follow up with the ability to try again. I like what Mary Sheedy Kurcinka says on page 245: ” When you say yes, you give her a sense of autonomy, a chest-pumping pride of acheivement, a glowing sense of capablity. When you say no, you are teaching her when and how to stop herself.”
The challenge, of course, is to get the balance right – so many parents say no to each and every thing until the child doubts his or her own capablity, and so many parents never say no to anything at all, meaning the child never learns how to stop him or herself. It is much harder for older teens and young adults to figure out how to stop themselves and give themselves limits if this was never ever modeled or taught earlier.
Finding that balance can be individual for each child – age, circumstance, but also temperament, developmental age and maturity, along with your family’s values. We all want our children to be capable, so sometimes it bothers parents that in order for this to happen we have to model our best decision making for our children, and yes, gradually helping our child learn to control him or herself. We teach and we guide.
Manners and safety become good places to start with boundaries and then increasing independence. Manners are actually important, because it is a sign of respect for other people, and because we all live together. Safety is something we can’t negotiate on and must set boundaries. Safe doesn’t mean smothering, however, especially as our child grows toward independence and being on their own. We support our children when they are young and help them move toward the point where we provide guidance. This is possiblity no where as true than in the older teen years. Our boundaries are guided by our family values. The author gives the example of the Olympic ski-jumping champions on page 252. She writes, ” I have to admit I’d have stopped them from jumping off the roof onto their mattresses even if they’d wanted to. Today, my kids are not champion ski jumpers. Theirs are.”
Sometimes when children are younger, what comes up is, “Well, so and so can do this. Their family does this.” That is the point though! Ultimately, not all families have the same rules or the same emphasis on things like work, play, adventure, etc. We need to look at the child in front of us and figure out how to not only meet that child’s needs and temperament, but how to do that within our family value system. Sometimes family mission statements are awesome for honing in on that – if you would like to see a back post about that, see Creating A Family Mission Statement
We need to respect our children’s no answers, but sometimes older children need a nudge. The author points out on page 261 that helping to support a child through sometimes fearful sometimes requires nudging and that nudging is not pushing. Whether it is learning to ride a bike, potty training, driving a care – sometimes children need a nudge. It involves talking to your child about what is bothering them about the situation, and seeing what you can do to help support through that. We also need to be careful to recognize that children may be doing things, just not the way we would do them and that is okay.
What did you all think of this chapter? There aren’t too many more chapters left in the book and then we will be on to our next book!