Do you know what’s scarier to your children than rules they don’t like to obey? The unknown. In a household where there are no rules, or the rules aren’t enforced consistently, that’s exactly what kids experience—an environment where they can’t predict what’s going to happen next, and aren’t really sure what is expected of them.
As ironic as it may seem, your kids crave boundaries.
Now, don’t expect them to come to you asking for a regular bedtime or restrictions on places they’re allowed to go. Your kids don’t even realize that they draw a sense of security from the fences you put up around their world, but they do.
Why Kids Want Boundaries:
1. Your children want boundaries because they want your approval.
It’s only when the dos and don’ts are clearly and consistently laid out that they can behave and perform in such a way as to win that approval and affirmation. In a home where the rules don’t exist or change with the wind, children never know where the line is until they’ve crossed it and mom has blown her stack. Think about it: how hard would it be to please and never upset your boss if there were no clear guidelines and performance expectations related to your job?
2. Your children want boundaries because it gives them a place to hide.
There are lots of inappropriate things in the world they don’t want to do, or say, or take part in. But peer pressure being the incredible force that it is, kids and teens are hesitant to say so for fear of ridicule. When they can fall back on, “I would, but my parents won’t let me,” they get to save face with their peers while still avoiding the bad environment or experience. Let them hide behind you until they’re old enough and secure enough to claim those values choices for their own.
3. Your children want boundaries because it makes for a happier home.
A well-known study published in the Journal of Family Psychology showed that families with established boundaries and routines experienced greater overall emotional health, have children with a stronger sense of self, and allow couples to enjoy happier marriages. That’s quite a return on your boundary-setting investment!
This is one area where your children are totally dependent upon you in a way that they can’t even understand, much less express. Do the heavy lifting of setting limits for your kids and enforcing them each and every day. Make no mistake—it is work, and you won’t always be popular with your children for it. And perhaps that’s why so many moms and dads don’t see it through. But it’s up to you to have the wisdom and foresight to see the pay-off boundaries will bring to your family down the road.