10 Ways to Establish Clear Boundaries for Children
Children actually thrive when they have boundaries. Boundaries help children feel safe. Good discipline by parents involves making sure the boundaries are clear, and known, ahead of time.
1. Less is more:
Follow the guideline of a special education teacher we know. “Five rules respected 100% of the time are better than 20 rules with haphazard compliance.”
2. Be precise:
Miscommunication is not the way to establish a positive environment. Effective communication works. It pays to make sure everyone is on the same page.
3. Involve the kids in the design:
Have a family pow-wow. Family communication gets everyone involved in designing the boundaries. When children share ownership of the rules, they’re more invested.
4. Draw up a contract:
Once the “Family Ten-Commandments” have been established, write up a document that everyone will sign.
5. Post the rules:
Post copies of the contract in the kitchen and in each bedroom. Remember, these are not restrictions so much as rules by which to live.
6. Recognize appropriate behavior:
Teachers refer to this as, “Catch ‘em when things are going well.” Too many of us come down on violations like a ton of bricks and never pay attention to what’s going well. If it’s attention they’re after, they’ll get it one way or the other.
7. Avoid labeling children as “good” and “bad”:
Children, and adults, behave in ways that are acceptable and in ways that are unacceptable. Labeling a child as “bad” will do little to improve behavior and a lot to create a negative self-image.
8. NEVER play Mom against Dad:
“Good-cop, bad-cop” is not a useful game at home. “Wait until your father gets home,” suggests authority that’s divided. Parents must have each other’s backs. It’s another way to be consistent.
9. Employ “natural consequences” when possible:
When raising teenagers, natural consequences just make more sense. For younger children, this helps associate negative outcomes with specific behavior.
10. Be trustworthy:
Discipline based on trust is life enhancing. Training children seldom works in the absence of trust. So be true to your word. If you make a promise to your child, keep it. If you tell them there will be a punishment or consequence for not obeying, follow through.
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