Raising children is one of the most rewarding and challenging things people will do in their lifetime. Layered with marriage, careers, extended family relationships/backgrounds, friendships and everyday life…it becomes absolutely essential to have tools for helping kids become well-adjusted, self-aware and resilient. Setting healthy boundaries allows both parents and children to experience the most joy in life by reducing conflict.
Although important to consider, hear and validate children’s emotions, parents still need to maintain control to create a stable environment. Ultimately, this stability will lead to feelings of security and safety for kids. Discover how to set boundaries at home and create an environment where parents are “in charge” (but not rigid!) and establish a path for healthy emotional development. XO, Nina
Establish Family Rules
- Be clear about the house rules that are an absolute “no go.” Taking your children’s feelings and opinions into consideration is very important, but there are some cases where safety is a huge concern and that trumps a child’s opinion. A great example of this is wearing a helmet when riding a bike or scooter.
- When non-negotiable rules are broken, setting up consequences from the beginning is helpful. Children are more inclined to wear their helmets if they know they won’t be able to ride their bike for a certain amount of time if they choose not to put one on. Long term, they’re more likely to make good decisions for themselves as well. Before you know it, putting on a helmet becomes as natural as putting on a seatbelt.
- Habits develop out of routine. If you’re teaching a child the value of reading and set a limit around screen time before bed, don’t say “no” one night, and give in the next night. If they ask to watch a show on their device instead of reading a book because they’re “too tired,” offer to read the book to them, or read your own book alongside them.
- By sticking to your original boundary, kids begin to understand that the rules do matter, that your decisions need to be respected and that, instead of changing expectations as you go, you’re willing to be flexible so that you can help each child meet them.
Follow Through and Have Patience
- Back up your words with action. If you’re more worried about your children being mad at you because they missed a playdate and allow them to go “just this once,” your words might start to lose meaning. Being trustworthy comes from doing what you say you’ll do, even if it feels uncomfortable in the moment.
- Pay attention when they get it right and things are going well. By “catching them” doing the right thing and recognizing it in the moment, you give them the attention they need and desire. Practice makes perfect. If you have to give them a few reminders in the beginning and then notice they’re doing it on their own — say something encouraging.
Freedom to express yourself should always be encouraged — especially in young children while they’re still learning and uninhibited by so much of the outside world. Establishing healthy boundaries with children will ultimately give them a greater sense of security and self-esteem, making them feel less anxious about their own decisions.