Children and Setting boundaries
If there is anything that is going to get parents in a muddle it is trying to stick to the boundaries and rules that we have set. The thing is that the boundaries we set down in parenting, are not just something that we invent or read about in a book. They are influenced by our own values and the way we were treated as children.
Sometimes this means that we mimic the parenting skills of our own parents and sometimes it means we rebel against them – depending on our memories and view of our childhood. And of course this is not necessarily the best way to establish boundaries and rules that reflect the kind of behaviour you are hoping to instill in your own little cherubs.
Having a conscious view of how you have come about your current family rules and boundaries is good to be mindful of. Then we are likely to think more about what we are hoping to achieve with the rules we have set, rather than just about the rules themselves. That also then makes it easier to be consistent in our approach.
When I think about it, the behaviour that we want and expect from our kids, boils down in simple terms to teaching them to show respect for other people and property, wherever they happen to be. And actually the children may grow up, but generally our expectations do not change, whether they are two or twenty years old.
Think about toddlers and teenagers wondering round a supermarket, their behaviour can either be seen as either very annoying or exemplary. And it can change on a week to week basis.
Toddlers running around a supermarket, shouting, laughing and playing chase – not good. It’s dangerous for them and very stressful for both shoppers and their parents. The best outcome is that they make it round the shop without it all going terribly wrong and ending in toddler tears and tantrums.
If the toddlers had been in a trolley, or more closely supervised even if they were being kept occupied with a drink and some nibbly bits, they are only going to attract positive attention from parents and other shoppers. And although toddlers are hugely unpredictable, the likelihood of tears and a tantrum has been reduced, as they are less likely to charge into someone else or fall over.
In a similar way take a couple of teenagers chatting loudly, using suspect language and wondering around bumping into people. This will also be frowned on by other shoppers, quite understandably in my opinion. If the same teenagers toned down their language and were more aware of those around them, at best we would be impressed and at worst we would not even notice them.
It s all about respect for others and other people’s property – or space.
The importance of setting boundaries and being consistent in how we react when they are broken is the tricky bit. Tiredness, lack of time, being in a public place can all take the toll on our rules. But there is no doubt that the boundaries we set our children will influence their long-term behaviour. And even if we can not be consistent all of the time, remembering the boundaries we set now, will influence their behaviour in years to come will help us keep them on track most of the time at least. (Spoken by a Mum who has suffered some pretty gruelling situations in supermarkets when my kids were little and big!)