Setting Boundaries that Stick
This entry is dedicated to all the single parents out there, who I admire beyond what I can possibly share. I am extremely lucky, not just to have a partner but one who pitches in, a lot. But parents end up single parents for so many reasons and life never turns out the way we expect and sometimes that means single parenthood.
Single parents have extra challenges that dual parent households don’t. Of course there are some dual parent households where one is basically a single parent. Everyone has their own challenges. But for the most part, single parents have it much harder. I actually got a question from a single mom about something that she struggles with in particular and that is setting boundaries and following through on them. So here are some tips!
How do we set and maintain boundaries with our kids?
First and foremost, never lay down a boundary you aren’t willing or able to follow through. If you tell your kids they have to turn the TV off in 5 minutes, say it and mean it. Don’t walk away and talk on the phone for the next 15 minutes and then expect they are going think you mean 5 minutes or even any other limit or boundary you set down in the future. Because you’ve just shown them your boundaries waver, they’re fluid. If you are cooking dinner and the timer will be going off in 3 minutes and you know you want that TV off in 5 minutes for sure, then tell them that. When 5 minutes comes, ask them nicely to turn it off. If they don’t then you set the consequence, “Please turn off the TV now and come to the table or I will turn it off.” If you feel you need more weight, “If I turn it off, it won’t come back on for the next 3 days.” But again, only say this, if you mean it, if it really won’t come back on in the next 3 days. You can’t go 2 days and say, “Oh you’ve been so good so I guess we can turn it back on tonight.” No. If you say 3 days. It’s 3 days. If they ask on day 2, the answer is no. I’ve had my kids do this to me. My answer is, “If I gave in, if I let you have your way right now, what kind of lesson would that teach you? How would you know that I mean what I say? How would you not think that all you have to do is ask or beg or plead to get me to change my mind? You wouldn’t. So no. The answer is no. I said 3 days. I meant 3 days. Don’t ask me again.”
Now I have talked in this podcast and I also talk on the website about setting these consequences as a last resort. Boundary setting can and more often than not requires setting a consequence. So of course, when your children comply, you want to give them positive feedback for doing so, especially if it’s BEFORE you had to set a consequence. “thank you for turning the tv off when I asked. That was very helpful.” But sometimes we do have to set consequences in order to let our kids know that we mean business when we set down a boundary. They have their place.
Now if you have a toddler, a good tool for setting boundaries is 1-2-3 magic. For older children, the class on consequences and also on power struggles have some great tools for setting boundaries and sticking with them. You can find these classes on the website at yourvillageonline.com under the discipline section. Also if you want your kids to help more around the house and aren’t sure what things you’d like them to do, there is a class on Chores and Allowance under the modern parenting section. I cover not only what tasks are good and can be expected at each age but different ways to navigate the jobs as part of family responsibility versus jobs for allowance.
To learn more about setting boundaries and also some helpful tips for another area that parents struggle, you can listen to this episode on our podcast.