Parenting and setting boundaries
One of the first tasks of parenting is deciding how long we let the baby cry, how we respond when they do, when do we let them self-sooth. Then we decide what boundaries to set for the toddler how close to the fire, the pool, grandma’s figurines do we allow them and how do we enforce those limits.
We calibrate the boundaries as they go through primary school and by the time they hit secondary we usually have had to have phone and device boundaries, sleep over, stay up, acceptable viewing and language boundaries and expectations on how they treat other members of the family. If we fail to set boundaries young people feel lost and will punish us usually with bad behaviour or defiance.
The battle of adolescent parenting is calibrating boundaries so that by the time they leave home they are independent, self-disciplined and well regulated. They only learn to be like this because they have practiced being responsible with negotiated and appropriate boundaries.
It is a tough job but here are a few considerations:
- The argument that everyone else is doing it is not a good reason for allowing anything. They probably aren’t and contacting other parents involved will really help you make decisions especially about parties. If you can’t talk to the adults supervising they can’t go. They will often admit they were relieved that you did not let them go. An unsupervised party or ‘Gatho’ is an opportunity for lots of young people to be pressured into poor choices. Party drugs and alcohol are cheap and widely available. This is the context in which many of the problematic sexual contact that comes to our attention occurs.
- It is important you know where they are both on-line and in the real world.
- Devices need to be kept outside the bedroom at night and there should be limits on their use. They need a break from social media and they need 9 hours sleep.
- Negotiate boundaries so the young person own/agrees to the limits but only offer a range of options that you can live with.
- Don’t set boundaries on things that aren’t important, messy rooms are not life threatening whereas mouldy food in there just might be.
- Choose to have negotiations, impose sanctions or consequences when everyone is rested and calm, not on the fly or in the heat of battle.
- You need to win. They need to feel your hands on the reins even very gently.
- Over time they need more control over their lives so be prepared to reward responsible behaviour with greater responsibility.
- Take care of yourselves it is hard work and they need you to be there,
- Be there, give them your time, be there, pay attention, be there, look for the opportunities to have conversations about the things that excite and worry them.