A school in New York decided to replace the rusty old boundary fences around its playground. The students had always played right out to those fences. They would even hang onto the link fencing to watch traffic and pedestrians go by. When the old fencing was pulled down an interesting thing happened. All the kids grouped together in the center of the playing area and would not venture near the boundary because they were afraid.
My father had an 11 p.m. curfew on my going out as a teen. Although I grumbled about it sometimes I knew that if I wasn't home by 11 p.m. he would start to worry and if necessary, come and find me. He loved me enough to care that I was safe.
Boundaries are set to help kids feel secure and to help them know exactly what is expected of them.
- They need to know the point of unacceptable behavior (the boundary)
- You need to draw the line where you want it according to your values and beliefs.
- Parents need to set consequences for breaching boundaries.
- Kids need to know precisely what those consequences will be beforehand.
- Parents need to apply those consequences consistently.
- If the consequences do not work, then more stringent consequences should be set.
The parent is no longer the big ogre. The child is the one making the decision. The parent acts upon that choice.
When parents set clear boundaries, there is MUCH less likelihood of a subjective or inconsistent response e.g. grounding a child for a week for a minor infringement or ignoring the infringement altogether.
When kids make the wrong choice the consequence should be applied, followed by a discussion with the child about how to make the right choice next time.
When kids make the right choice they should be acknowledged for doing so. They really do want to please you.
Written by Sally Burgess