Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Sue Scheff: Obstacles for parents in teaching boundaries

Kara Tamanini, offers a great new article this week on teaching boundaries. Follow her on Twitter @KidTherapist

Obstacles for parents in teaching boundaries

By Kara Tamanini, Author and Therapist

One of the biggest difficulties for parents in teaching children boundaries is putting up with your child’s whining about the boundaries. The child will push you and push you in order to test the limits in order to get their way! That is their job, of course they want what they want and when they want it. Your job as a parent is to put up with this testing of the limits, the whining, anger, temper tantrums, and pouting until the boundary lines between you as a parent and your child are clear and defined. Teaching a child appropriate boundaries with you as a parent as well as at school and with their friends is a very difficult job, however if you teach these boundaries, your child will be much more successful at relating to others as well as being more successful in all of their relationships in life. The obstacles to developing boundaries in your child are as follows:

1.) When a parent depends on their child to meet their own needs. You want your child to develop their own friendships and relationships . When you as the parent need your child to be close to you and require their constant affection to meet your own needs, this interferes with your child’s ability to establish their own boundaries with you and with others. This causes problems for children later in life because they are too dependent upon you and you have now made your child your “friend” in order to have everything between you flow smoothly in order to not lose their “friendship.” Children are our children and the appropriate boundary is for them to be our kids and not our “friends.” Their friends are at school and not at home.

2.) Another common obstacle to establishing appropriate boundaries with our kids is when we overidentify with our child’s feelings. This usually occurs as a result of a parent’s own unresolved issues from their childhood. We as parents often are unable to delay our child’s gratification as result of trying to avoid having our child experience any pain, guilt, anger, or fear. This is impossible!! We as parents need to empathize with our children when they are scared or feel pain, however we as parents can not avoid having our children feel these feelings. Children need to learn how to experience and handle their emotions.

3.) Children require consequences in order to learn boundaries. A common mistake made by parents is when they believe that their children will not love them if they give them consequences for their behavior. Children need structure and many parents fear that if they confront their child or or disagree with their child that they will lose their relationship with their child. The reality is that when you set clear boundaries for your child, they will feel more secure, not less.

4.) A common obstacle also seen is when parents ignore their children when they are misbehaving and then later start ranting and raving at them. For example, your child is in a store and complains and carries on about having you as the parent buy them something and you ignore their behavior while you are in the store. You are really hoping that they will stop their temper tantrum in the store and they will simply stop. Then, when you get in the car you let them have it! Of course, your child starts crying or is very angry at you and you as the parent feel guilty. This is an obstacle that will clearly not help you establish boundaries with your child. That behavior your child was displaying in the store should have been addressed immediately, even if you had to leave the store. Nobody and I mean nobody gets their way all the time, don’t set your child up for a reality shock later on in their life.

5.) Lastly, and the most popular obstacle to setting clear boundaries for our kids is when we let our children wear us down and we simply give in to whatever they are asking us. We have all done this as parents. They go on and on and on and finally we say, “alright go ahead, just stop your whining.” Kids do not give up easily and they will work you to death until you give in and they get their way, even if you don’t agree as a parent to what you gave in to. Don’t simply say boundaries to your child, you have to enforce the boundaries and this needs to be done consistently.

Children without boundaries are usually children that are out of control and have little to no ability to delay gratification. As a parent, have supportive relationships of your own, this will help you stay focused and allows you to have an outlet. In addition, parents that have their own life are teaching their kids that they are truly not the center of the universe. This teaches children that they must interact and relate to those around them and everyone is important and has their own wants and needs.

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