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Could Boundaries Be Your Family's Game-Changer?

Updated: May 11




Have you ever felt like you're in a never-ending battle trying to get your kids to put down their screens or say no to junk food? You know it isn't great for them, but when you try to set some limits, all hell breaks loose! And then, not only are you dealing with a full-blown meltdown, but you're also left feeling like a crappy parent and secretly wondering if your kids are out to get you. Trust me, if you've been there, you're definitely not the only one!


The good news is that establishing and enforcing boundaries can help you navigate these challenges and restore harmony in your household. When you implement boundaries correctly, it's not just about resolving the immediate conflict; it's also an incredible opportunity to help your kids build resilience. 


To create effective boundaries, it is essential to first clearly define our role and our children's role within the family structure. As parents, it's our role to ensure our children's safety, and our age and experience equip us to fulfill this crucial role. And our children's primary role is to communicate their emotions freely with us. Once we grasp these distinct roles, the process of setting and maintaining boundaries becomes more straightforward and intuitive.


When setting a boundary, one key thing to remember is that your boundaries shouldn't depend on your kids doing anything. There's a big difference between making requests and setting boundaries. When you make a request, your kids might go along with it, or they may not. But boundaries? They're different. Boundaries are all about you taking action, not waiting for your child to do something.


Let's say you want your kid to stop watching TV because they've already reached the daily limit you've set. The way to enforce this boundary is by turning off the TV or taking the remote and turning it off yourself. Repeatedly asking your child to turn off the TV is about as effective as trying to convince a squirrel to give up its acorn stash - it's a losing battle that will likely lead to frustration and tension for both of you.


When you turn off the TV, brace yourself for a rollercoaster of emotions from your kids. They might get upset, mad, or sad. You might hear them crying, screaming, or complaining. And here's where you have to step up and do something crucial: validate their emotions. Let them know that what they're feeling is totally normal and that you're there to support them.


You might say something like, "I know you didn't want the TV to be turned off. I bet you're pretty upset right now, and I totally get it. I'd probably feel the same way if I were in your shoes. It seems awful, but we can’t watch any more TV." This step is super important because we want our kids to know that their feelings cannot override the boundary, and the boundary cannot invalidate their feelings. This is also a step that most parents struggle with. 


It is difficult for parents to offer support to their kids when they are experiencing difficult emotions. They usually react in one of two ways: either they tell their kid they're overreacting and dismiss the emotion, or they give in to avoid the meltdown. Sound familiar? Throughout history and in numerous societies, challenging emotions have often been deemed unacceptable or have been suppressed. Our society has had a low tolerance for anything other than happiness and positivity. 


When we struggle to listen to our kids or acknowledge their challenging emotions, it can lead them down two paths. Some kids learn to lash out or become aggressive when they're feeling big feelings. They might explode because, deep down, they feel unheard and unseen, and that unmet need for validation pushes them to the brink.


On the flip side, other kids who don't feel seen and heard might learn to shut down and bottle everything up. They start to believe that the only way to get attention and approval is by hiding their true feelings and just going along with whatever they're told. They become little people-pleasers, always putting on a happy face even when they're hurting inside.


If we really think about it, neither of these outcomes is what we want for our children as they grow up and become adults. We don't want them to be aggressive and explosive, but we also don't want them to be pushovers who never speak their truth. It's a tough balance, but it all starts with making sure our kids feel heard and validated, even when their emotions are intense or uncomfortable for us to deal with.


Every time you set a clear boundary and stick to it while acknowledging your child's feelings, you give them a little mental workout. They're learning that they can handle disappointment, frustration, or anger without falling apart. They're discovering that their emotions, even the tough ones, are valid and manageable.


Over time, these small moments of emotional resilience start to add up. Your kids begin to develop a stronger sense of self, knowing that they can navigate life's challenges with the tools you've given them. They learn to face their feelings head-on rather than shying away from them or letting them take over.


So, while enforcing boundaries might feel like a battle in the moment, it's really a gift in disguise. You're not just solving a problem; you're helping your children build the mental strength and emotional agility they'll need to thrive in the long run. And that's a pretty amazing thing!



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