Parenting requires a lot of delicate balancing. Rules are necessary to guide and protect your children, but you can’t police their every move. In fact, setting boundaries might paint you as the family tyrant leading to a rebellion by your kids.
How do you set appropriate boundaries without coming across as an evil ruler? Believe it or not, this is actually possible. These five suggestions can help you set family rules while keeping the peace:
1. Have a Discussion
A tyrant imposes laws without consulting with those whom the laws directly affect. Therefore, a simple discussion with your child should make you seem less like a dictator and more like a caring parent. Taking the time to explain why rules are being put into place should help them to understand why boundaries are important.
Talking about why your family has rules also allows your child to ask questions concerning the boundaries you’re setting. Otherwise they’ll try to answer those questions on their own. They may grow resentful simply because they don’t see your point of view.
2. Practice What You Preach
If you want kids to follow your lead, you have to show them how. When you set an example of adhering to family norms, children are less likely to fight back on rules. This type of leadership has proven to be effective even outside of the home when kids are around other families and friends.
Let’s say the boundary you set is not to have electronic devices at the dinner table. According to kids smartphone company Gabb Wireless, this is one of the best ways to connect with your kids. If you have a teenager in the house, you’re almost guaranteed to have some pushback on this. Set the example by not having your own smartphone at the table so your child has no reason to complain. Besides, family dinner is a great time to connect and strengthen bonds. Social media and texting conversations can wait an hour.
Of course not all boundaries are going to apply to you directly. For example, one of your boundaries might be that kids can only access electronics once homework is completed. Since you probably don’t have any homework, you can grant yourself electronic access after completing your own task list.
3. Fill the Void
When you set boundaries, children will often envision how the grass is greener on the other side and wallow in self-pity. Instead of just placing boundaries and moving on, try to make the space within the boundary more enjoyable. This will help your child come to terms with the boundaries and enjoy life even with some rules.
Perhaps one boundary your child is bummed about is a technology curfew. With such an attachment to technology, many kids struggle to find ways to fill their time when they’re unplugged. Help them out with this, and the boundary won’t be so bad.
When phones and tablets are put away, approach your child with different ideas about how to pass the time. Read together, do a puzzle, or experiment in the kitchen with a cooking subscription box from companies like Raddish Kids. This will show your child how much fun they can have without a screen and justify the boundaries you set.
4. Enable Progression
As your child grows and matures, you will need to change boundaries. If you keep the rules for your teenager you set when they were younger, you’ll look like a tyrant to them. Feel free to roll back boundaries if your child has exhibited good behavior under existing rules.
When your child is still young, you might set a boundary about bringing electronics with them to school. There’s a risk of their devices getting lost or stolen, as well as distracting them from classes. As your child earns responsibility, you can retract part of that rule and let them take a phone to school.
You can push back curfews as your child grows up. Plus the parameters they have to meet in order to play video games can and should be changed. By working with your child while altering boundaries, they will respect you as a parent.
5. Teach Before You Punish
A tyrant is swift to punish anyone who dares to defy their laws. While the breaking of boundaries shouldn’t go unpunished, a good parent will seek first to teach. This shows your child that you care about them and their growth more than what a rule or boundary represents.
Let’s say one of your boundaries is not to allow your child to ride their bike alone. If you found out they went on a joyride, talk with them about why that boundary is important to you. Also discuss why they should take it seriously. After the discussion, you can give out a fair punishment. Hopefully your child will better understand your point of view.
As you exercise patience and understanding, you’ll be able to connect more with your children. You’ll also be able to set boundaries that both protect them and help them grow. They’ll look back later on in life and be thankful for your efforts to help them grow into mature individuals.