We Care receive many questions from parents about how to successfully put boundaries in with their children as an important part of behaviour interventions
Our Allied health team receive many questions from parents about how to successfully put boundaries in with their children as it is often an important part of behaviour interventions.
Why are boundaries important:
Kids feel anxious and insecure when they don't have adults around who set limits. Boundaries help kids feel safe and enable them to feel confident that they can depend on you to protect them when needed. Just as boundaries can be beneficial for children, they can also negatively impact the relationship between you and your child if this is not done carefully.
Before I jump straight into boundaries, I want to highlight some information from The Circle of Security Parenting program we deliver that is relevant to this topic. Circle of Security is a relationship/attachment focused therapy program that highlights the importance of being bigger, stronger, wiser and kind and avoid being mean or weak when responding to children's behaviours of concern.
Importance of Bigger, Stronger, Wiser and Kind:
It is important to remember being bigger, stronger and wiser without kindness means that children perceive our actions as 'mean' and they are less likely to follow our rules and expectations. Some children may follow rules and expectations, however, this may be out of fear which means they will only do the right thing when you are around. This can become problematic for the child/parent relationship, particularly as the child gets older.
The complications of weak:
I think we have all been here as parents when we have given in to our children's needs when we shouldn't. There can be several reasons for this and The Circle of Security Program covers these reasons in detail. This can be beneficial in helping us understand how our anxieties can lead to mean/weak parenting styles.
So what does 'wise' actually mean?
According to the dictionary – it means 'having or showing experience, knowledge, and good judgement' What does that tell us about parenting and how to put boundaries in?
Being wise means our role is to educate our kids. We use our skills, knowledge and good judgement to help our children make better choices in life.
What happens when children refuse to follow our rules:
The first step is to work out what is the function behind this refusal e.g. is there a need that is not being met which we cannot see but the child may be seeking inappropriately. If so, is this need reasonable and how can you still meet their need without giving in to what they want.
Here at We Care, we refer to the Iceberg model when assessing children and adult's behaviour.
The iceberg model encourages us to see the behaviour as the tip of the iceberg and work out what is hidden underwater that is influencing the child or adult's behaviour (what is the function of the behaviour) before we can develop appropriate strategies and interventions.
By assessing the function of behaviours it helps us to better understand what the behaviour is trying to communicate. You can get assistance from our psychologists to help you with understanding your child's behaviour and developing appropriate positive behaviour support strategies and interventions. Our behaviour support plans can assist in helping you better understand where it is appropriate to put boundaries in and how to implement them.
Some tips for putting in boundaries
It is always important to validate a child's reaction to the rule or boundary so they feel heard and understood. This will help to reduce the likelihood of the situation escalating to the next level of behaviour. This will be significantly harder to manage and increase the likelihood of giving in to your child.
It is also important to never say no to a child as it will increase their anger and possibly escalate their behaviour.
So how do I validate?
Let me give you an example of a child asking for something they cannot have:
Child: "I want…….."
Parent: "I'm sorry that is not something you can have. But how about A or B (give other options if possible)
Child: starts screaming "I want….."
Parent: (this is where you validate) "I can see you really want ……and your really angry right now". "how can I help you with your anger?"
If there is no answer, suggest some options:
"Can I give you a hug?"
"I'll stay here with you until you feel better"
Model calmness and model deep breathing by saying:
"you know when I feel angry, I find it helpful to…"
Try to stay with the child until they are feeling better (unless they ask for space). Do not give in as next time they will take it to the next level and may think there is a chance you will give in as you have in the past.
Other tips to ensure success with boundaries
Things to consider when out in the community with your child
Putting in boundaries in the community can be difficult as we often feel all eyes are on us as parents when our children are crying. We may be worried about what people might think of us if we decide to give in to our child's request or stick to our boundary.
Here are some helpful tips to consider when out in the community and your child decides to have a meltdown over something he or she would like:
Remember, we always need to aim to be wise and kind instead of mean and weak. This will help improve our child's behaviour. Changes do not happen overnight however daily consistency in being Bigger, Stronger, Wiser and Kind from both parents will lead to quicker changes in your child's behaviour.
What if I struggle to be a wise and kind parent sometimes?
There is no such thing as perfect parenting. We all have days where we give in to our children or feel we were mean in our response. Don't beat yourself up over this. Children are very forgiving. Talk to your child about what happened taking responsibility for your part of being mean/weak. It is important that our children see us experience difficult times and human emotions. As long as we reflect on our own emotions/actions, accept responsibility and work to rebuild relationships, you are teaching children that it is ok to make mistakes and take responsibility for their actions.
Written by Yasmina lees
Clinical Leader/Senior Psychologist