It is uncomfortable for many parents to start putting boundaries into place, especially if you haven’t before! As parents, we love our kids, and we would never want to see them upset over something we did (or could have prevented).
Learning about boundaries early in life gives children the skills to navigate future relationships, such that they are less likely to do things that make others uncomfortable.
Next, comes the important question: how do we go about teaching children boundaries in a healthy way, such that they are able to learn and still understand that we still love them? Here are some tips!
When giving instructions to children, we must keep in mind to give clear and direct instructions. Your child is less likely to cross the line as it’s easier for them to follow and understand the rules. Remember, they are still developing their language capabilities too! Your language should be directive and close-ended (and not open-ended or open for misinterpretation).
With consistency comes familiarity. By enforcing rules consistently, there is structure and discipline at home, both of which are important elements of effective parenting. If you are consistent and firm with your child, it becomes easier for them to know how to stay within the limits that you impose on them.
When teaching or disciplining your child, give appropriate eye contact, speak with a firm voice, and have a neutral facial expression. Do not attempt to discipline them while still laughing or smiling at them--if you don’t think that you would be convinced when someone does this to you, chances are, your child won’t as well. As long as whatever you say is congruent with your actions, your child will understand that you’re serious about what you say. This makes them more likely to keep within the set boundaries.
Have a family meeting. Family communication gets everyone involved in setting the boundaries. When children share ownership of the rules, they’re more invested and are more likely to follow them as well.
In an ideal world, our children will never be upset. Especially not with us. However, know that it’s alright if your child is upset with you in the process of setting boundaries. They need to learn what is acceptable behaviour and what is not. Moreover, the experience can also help them learn how to cope with negative emotions in a healthy, rational way. These lessons you have for them are very necessary, so don’t feel bad for it.
This is a great way to show your child that you still love them even though they did something wrong! When they’re done something good, praise them and acknowledge their efforts. Children love to be acknowledged and praised for something they did, especially when it’s from their parents! This makes them feel loved and cherished. They will thus be more motivated to stick to these boundaries in order to feel these positive feelings again! Positive reinforcement is great at maintaining a child’s good behaviour.
Loving our children means teaching them the right, even though difficult, lessons to better navigate their life, values, and relationships. Teaching them appropriate behaviour happens to be one of these important lessons. We can start doing so in their childhood as they are keenly exploring their environment. Not only will an early head start help them in life, it will also make your parenting journey an easier one as time passes by.