The Boundaries Tool calls parents to be the parents…to be in loving authority over their kids…and to set clear, fair boundaries. KIDS NEED BOUNDARIES. KIDS THRIVE ON BOUNDARIES. Kids feel secure and loved when there are boundaries. And it’s our job to set them. Now, that doesn’t mean that we have to be all about the rules—boundaries, boundaries, boundaries—but it does mean that we can work towards finding that balance between rules and relationship. It is possible to build a close positive relationship with our kids AND have healthy boundaries in place to keep them safe and make them feel loved. That’s what discipline is all about in the Teamwork Parenting Approach—rules AND relationship. Teaching AND teaming. Setting limits AND showing love. Being firm AND being flexible. Having high expectations AND healthy grace.
When setting boundaries for your kids, we recommend:
- Setting boundaries in advance—Throwing out arbitrary consequences for behavior is frustrating to kids and sometimes puts parents in a position of uncertainty and even unnecessary anger. It’s in those moments where consequences turn into punishments and become ineffective, wall-building, relationship-crushers. But if they are set in advance, then the kids know what’s coming and the parents just simply have to follow through.
- Inviting cooperation—Work as a team with your kids to come up with boundaries. Whether it’s mealtime, bedtime, or bath time…or screen time, cell phone privileges, or curfews, the more we work as a team with our kids—asking for their input and opinions (with us parents having the final say since we are in charge, of course), the better cooperation we will get. And the more effective our boundaries will be.
- Asking yourself about the 5 F’s—
- 1. Are these Fair?: Are these reasonable requests for my child’s age and stage of development? If so, sit down with your kids and set family expectations together. You can also set expectations for any situation BEFORE it happens. Remember to invite cooperation and work as a team. If I have been too permissive in the past…ask: do I need to ease my child into this new expectation?
- 2. Are these Firm?: Are these clear and concise? Not too wordy? Easy to understand and respectful? For example: We have 4 expectations before we leave the house…The 4 B’s. We review them often and have hand-movements to go with them. (Kids who are Kinesthetic (Movement/Body Learners) will benefit from hand gestures for expectations greatly.)
- Be Respectful
- Be a Good Listener
- Be Aware (be aware of other people—-you are not the only person in the universe–other people have feelings and needs, other people have personal space preferences, other people go to a grocery store or restaurant and may not want to hear you sing nor scream. This also encompasses an awareness of their surroundings—-safety and strangers. Be Aware covers a lot of things)
- Be Flexible (be willing to move on to Plan B–or C, D, E, or even Z with an open mind and a good attitude)
- Do these Focus on Character and/or Safety?: Do the boundaries I set revolve more around my own personal opinions, preferences, and fears or do they reflect character traits and safety parameters that matter? Do I need to be more flexible or more firm?
- Do these confirm our Family Identity? What do we value as a family? What do we believe in? What are the character traits that we emphasize and teach over and over? Those are the firm boundaries we need to set and follow through with. All the rest, we can be a whole lot more flexible.
Getting kids dressed in the morning can be a chore–especially when they start to develop opinions about what they wear. It drove me crazy when my daughter would pick out things that didn’t match. But because it didn’t cross a character trait boundary (other than poor fashion sense…in my opinion) nor was mismatched clothing any way unsafe (other than eye irritation–LOL!), I had to let it go. That didn’t mean that I didn’t take time to teach. I always said: “My sweet girl…because I’m your mom and God made me to be your teacher, can I share some quick advice with you? Well, when you pick out clothes, I recommend that you choose a shirt that is plain with a skirt that has a pattern. That’s just my opinion. You can choose whatever you want to wear because you’re beautiful no matter what.” Sometimes she would change and sometimes she wouldn’t. And that was OK. I just hugged my girl in her crazy patterned shirt with her oppositely crazy patterned skirt.
Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger by the way you treat them. Rather, bring them up with the discipline and instruction that comes from the Lord. Ephesians 6:4
Lord, You call fathers to focus on Your wisdom for teaching and disciplining their children without purposely making them angry. Wow. This is a tall order that can only be done through Your grace, patience, and peace. This is a verse that definitely points to using teamwork in our homes. Give all of us parents the vision you have for our family so we can remain team-focused…so we can remain calm…and so we can keep our training on the character traits that You desire to see from our family…and so we can preserve that positive relationship with our kids.