Parenting 101…Boundaries make happy parents and happy children…really!

Have you ever driven down an interstate, swerving over white lines and rumble strips? Scraping the car next to you and bumping the one in front? How about pushing a grocery cart down a fully stocked aisle, crashing into shelves? Or decided to use your neighbor’s swimming pool because it was a hot day and you didn’t have one? These are rather silly scenarios to make a point.

Boundaries are not the enemy, they’re our friends and children need to understand this at an early age. It makes for happy parents and happy children. Think how frustrated you feel when you walk into a situation and you don’t know the rules or ‘boundaries’. If you spent your day everyday in this type of setting, you’d be throwing temper tantrums as well!

Children of all ages structure their security by their boundaries or what is expected of them. They know the rules. No rules or boundaries, frustration sets in. Babies cry, toddlers throw tantrums, older children nag, scream, fight, and teenagers tell their parents to take a hike and do whatever they want. No, I’m not a professional in the strictest sense of the word, but I’ve had five children and I’m sharing what I’ve observed and lived over the years. Boundaries make happy children…really.

As I’ve shared with my daughter many times over the almost six years of her parenting life, the best way to establish boundaries, especially in younger children is to be consistent. As a parent, don’t establish, say or threaten ANYTHING that you won’t be willing to adhere to. Then, SAY it once and ACT the second time. It won’t take much time to establish the boundaries if you as the parent stick by this religiously. Example: as soon as a child is born, have a routine and stick with it as best as you can. Yes, you have to be more flexible with babies, you have to learn to communicate with them. But they are extremely smart little individuals and they will know your weakness very quickly. Have getting up,nap, play, eating and going to bed routines. If you stick with this most days, your children will know the boundaries at a very early age. They will become frustrated when that routine doesn’t happen. They will be secure in their little life and understand that mommy/daddy love them when they know what is expected of them. As children grow up, adjust the routine, but still have one.

How many times have you been shopping and seen the child wanting something? It can be toys, candy while checking out, clothing when they’re older. The parent says maybe or no, the child asks again and again and the parent starts to doubt the answer they gave. The child senses this and goes in for the kill. The nagging and begging starts and can accelerate into tantrums if not addressed. Many years ago I witnessed a five or six year old child kicking and screaming on the floor at the checkout because they still wanted the cereal I saw the mother tell the child ‘no’ to several aisles before. Guess what? The mother went and got the cereal and threw it into the cart saying, “Will you stop asking now?” Only until the next time the child wants something they can’t have.

The scenarios I gave above were pretty over the top. But I guarantee you, they’ve happened at some point in time. Usually in those situations the law will be called in before someone gets hurt. When you drive on the interstate, you stay within the lines. Those are your boundaries. When pushing a shopping cart, you don’t bang into the shelves. On a hot day, you don’t swim in your neighbor’s pool unless they invite you. So, teaching your children the boundaries at an early age will make for a happy life…really.

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