Your kids are in bed, the house is finally quiet and you miss them. So ironic, right!? I know I’m not the only mom who loves to watch videos of my kids after they go to sleep at night. There are some videos that are so sweet and I just can’t help but smile at the cuteness. Then there are other videos that make me laugh or cry at the craziness of being a parent.
There is this one video of my son, he is around 1.5 years old, where he is crying hysterically because I gave him what he asked for, for breakfast. It’s one of those my kid is crying because (eye roll moments)…
Looking back we all laugh at the video now. But during that moment I remember calling my mom, panicking, “what do I do!?” Our son was going through a phase where he didn’t want to eat what we gave him.
The pediatrician said to wait it out and not give in, but it was hard and not fun! “Don’t let him know there are other options. He will eventually start eating what you give him because he realizes there is no other choice.”
My mom encouraged me to set a boundary at this moment.
Setting Boundaries: How to Teach Your Kids Boundaries
Boundaries. The word sounds so decisive, so firm. Initially when I heard this, I didn’t like it. But through motherhood I’ve learned the value of setting firm boundaries. Even if neither of us enjoys the process, it was always worth it on the other end!
So what happened with my son that day? Keep reading to see how the story ends…
So why should I even care about boundaries with kids? you ask
Boundaries are so important because they shape our kids character, their ability to respect authority and their ability to say no. These are lifelong skills we want our children to develop and it starts with us. When our children learn to respect the boundaries we set at home, then they are more likely to follow their teacher’s boundaries at school. It’s vital to learn this skill when they are young. It will help their relationships, character, self-control and so much more!
When we set clear boundaries with our kids we notice a huge difference in their behavior. Yes, at first there may be push back. But with consistency, they’ve learned to listen and not hate us when we say no!
So now we know why boundaries are important, so how do we teach our kids the value of them!?
First, know your own boundaries.
What is important to you and your family? What do you want your kids to learn? Can you define your limits, exceptions, deal breakers?
How about patience? How do you expect your kids to behave when they have to wait? What if you say no to something they are begging for? How will you handle that situation?
The list could go on. These are just a few questions to get you started. It’s important to write out your expectations. For me, I didn’t want to be a personal chef making 3 different meals for each individual member of our family for breakfast, lunch and dinner. That was too much!
In our family it’s okay if the food isn’t your favorite, but you have to at least try a bite. In this breakfast example, I knew our son liked Ezekiel muffins, he’d eaten them most days for breakfast. For whatever reason, that day he wasn’t having it.
To wrap it up, what characteristics are important to impart into your children?
This first step will take time. So I encourage you to take it slow, think about it, talk it over with your spouse and pray for wisdom.
After you clearly define the boundaries you want to have in your family (see a few more examples below), it will be easier to set them with your kids.
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Examples of boundaries in parenting
Here are a few examples of boundaries you may want to have in your family:
BOUNDARY #1: At the dinner table we respect each other. One person talks at a time and we spend time learning about each other. We all sit down together and we don’t leave the table until everyone is finished.
BOUNDARY #2: During the hours of 1-2 PM mommy needs alone time. You can either nap, play or sing your room, but you must stay in your room. Unless of course it’s an emergency or you need help using the potty, etc.
BOUNDARY #3: Everyone sleeps in their own room at night. If you have a bad dream, you can come into mommy and daddy’s room for 5 minutes. After a few minutes, we will tuck you back in bed and say a prayer with you.
If your child pushes one of these boundaries, you already know the expectation. So it’s easier to enforce.
Second, we must model appropriate boundaries.
If we want our children to respect one another we must model this to them. We are their first role models.
So, we must learn to define, set and enforce boundaries in our own lives. If you need help doing this, I HIGHLY recommend the book Boundaries by Drs. Henry Cloud and John Townsend. In the description on Amazon, it states:
“If you’ve ever wondered: Can I set limits and still be a loving person? How do I answer someone who wants my time, love, energy, or money? Why do I feel guilty when I consider setting boundaries?”
I have to be honest and say I don’t like it when my kids are mad at me. I feel terrible and it feels uncomfortable. So this was a difficult part of boundary setting for me. But when I realized it actually changed their behavior for the good and they still loved me, I knew it was worth the few minutes of discomfort.
Third, set the boundary and wait.
So now that you know your family’s boundaries, it’s time to enforce them. This can be the hardest part for some parents. And remember it may take time for your family to adjust to these new boundaries.
The other day my daughter really wanted to tell me something. I was talking with my husband and she kept interrupting. When finally she said “DADDY STOP TALKING.”
That was the final straw for my husband. He had enough and a boundary needed to be set. He calmly told our daughter “Sweetie, what you have to say is important, but I am talking to mommy right now. You need to wait until I am done talking. Then you can have mommy’s full attention.”
Of course our daughter didn’t love his reaction. She was upset at first (mostly because she knew she was in trouble), but it was a valuable lesson. My husband didn’t like upsetting her either. But he knew in the long run she needed to learn compassion and patience in this situation.
Setting boundaries won’t always be easy and your kids may not like it! But does that mean you should stop? Definitely not.
So are you curious what happened that day with the breakfast my son asked for then decided he didn’t want? I didn’t yell, I simply told him here is what you have for breakfast. When you are ready you can sit down and eat it. I went along with my day, put laundry away, did some dishes. He cried for a full hour. Then all of a sudden, he stopped crying, sat down and ate his entire breakfast. And that was it! I honestly don’t think he has complained about breakfast since that day. It just took a firm boundary, a little discomfort and time.
When you set an enforceable limit (what are enforceable limits? See here) or boundary, it may take your child a few times to fully comprehend this. Don’t give up. Keep at it and you will see a breakthrough.
So how do you set boundaries as a parent?
Is it difficult to set boundaries with your kids? What works best for you? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below!