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Stop feeling guilty about setting boundaries!

mental models parenting Aug 31, 2022

I talk alot about empathy being the way that we ‘get in’ and connect with our kids but it is not the same as bending to their will at every turn. 


We as adults need to show them that there are boundaries that need to be respected in life; be it the law in your jurisdiction, someone’s private space or simply learning that they are allowed to delineate their own boundaries. 


We can feel bad of course when our kids push back against us when we set limits with them. We may carry our own baggage that makes it hard for us to enforce rules but this is not in their best interests or yours. You’ve heard it said that you can build a rod for your own back if you take the path of least resistance. 


Perhaps you grew up in a household that was strict, rigid, inflexible or you had a laissez faire upbringing. Whatever the case, our upbringing has an impact on where we draw the line when it comes to rules and boundaries. It’s important to reflect about that because this can play out in the way we parent and raise kids.


The same goes with raising kids. It’s important to understand that their struggle is normal and expected. We need to anticipate it and not be surprised to receive push back. That’s just what kids do. But remember rules without reason leads to rebellion so it helps to have a clear enough rationale to provide if you ever get asked ‘why’ you’ve chosen to make certain rules … but again, even if you’ve explained yourself, expect some whinging. If you don’t get whinging, you’re lucky - congratulate yourself and move on. Remember that if their having difficulties here, it simply means that they need to develop the skills to cope - skills they can learn if you remain level headed and reflective rather than overly reactive.


Children need to see that we can handle their big emotions and not crumble - but don’t be a stone wall - empathise with them. Make them know that you see them, you  hear them and you understand them. But once you’ve done that…move on! Don’t dwell. Why? It models resilience in the face of challenge. 


Here’s 5 things:


  1. Empathise with what they’re feeling, thinking and perceiving
  2. Let them emote and express. Give them the time and the space if you can. Acknowledge their pains.
  3. Hold the line! Be warm but firm. The iron fist in the velvet glove! But do not shame or humiliate them or berate them for their emotions.
  4. Make your case and then move on! Don’t repeat and don’t lecture.
  5. At the end of the day…leave space for reflection…talk talk talk with them. How did they feel, praise them for taking it on the chin even though it was difficult. Don’t forget to do your own self-reflections

Let me know if the comments section what you think. 

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Sometimes kids have a hard time talking to you about things when they need the most help. Learn to use emotional intelligence and empathic connection to gain co-operation without the friction.