Effective Parenting: Establishing Boundaries
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You chose to have children. In doing so, you took on the responsibility for raising them to be polite, caring and cooperative. Our nations schools are filled with these unruly children, who not having any moral guidance or discipline, simply carry on as destructively as they do at home. Why not? No ones ever told them differently. I’ve had so many young parents ask me how I manage to “control” my children, when theirs are so completely unruly. Having been in homes where children routinely jump on furniture, climb on kitchen counters, destroy their toys and disrespect their parents, I am struck by one thing. There are no boundaries set in these homes. When a 5 year old smacks Mommy HARD, when thwarted or upset, and Mommy doesn’t react, there is a serious problem. Children are allowed to fall asleep when they want, eat what they want, and say what they want, regardless of who they impact with their behavior. In talking with these parents, they tell me they want to be “friends” with their children. Many don’t believe discipline is necessary and that children somehow magically grow up to discipline themselves. My response to this is rubbish! I’ve seen computers damaged, VCR’s ruined, and furniture broken, all in the name of this “creative” form of parenting. The extreme self centeredness of these kids is alarming, If their needs aren’t gratified immediately., everyone within a one block radius can hear their displeasure. One friend of mine called me crying after her 4 year old daughter slapped her full in the face for refusing to go get her pizza. Sound extreme? Farfetched? It’s not. It’s been going on in American homes for a long time. What went wrong and can it be changed? What went wrong is fairly obvious to most people. Children need defined limits. They require routines, which give them a sense of safety and security. Above all, they need their primary role models to act like adults, and not like absent minded bigger kids. Can the behavior in these homes be changed? Yes. With consistency and hard work. This doesn’t mean changing from the Good Fairy into the Witch of Endor overnight. It took time to build this set of responses in your children, and it will take time and patience to change them. Starting with smaller things first. I don’t want you jumping on furniture or climbing on counters. This is not a safe way to play. Why? Because I love you and don’t want you to get hurt. Two, because this is Mommy and Daddys home and you will learn to respect it. You must then set a consequence for not respecting these limits and enforce it consistently. If the child routinely leaves toys strewn everywhere without picking them up, warn them they will lose them the next time they’re left out. And do it! If your child damages something of yours, take away something of hers. Explain that damaging property has consequences, that it must be paid for. Set boundaries on your personal areas of the home, or personal items. Explain to your child that if they want you to respect their property, they must respect yours. This means purses, wallets and your own grooming items are off limits. Computers are not a childs personal toy. They are an expensive item still in many homes, and your children need to be taught to respect that investment. If a young child has their own computer and abuses it, remove it until they can show some understanding of why we don’t treat them this way. Same for personal VCRs, radios and TV’s. I don’t approve of very young children having these items in the first place. Very often they are simply a baby sitter for their parents. If your child hits you in anger, you must move swiftly to stop this before it becomes a habit. The next time a child strikes you in anger, pick them up to eye level. Tell them firmly that you are their parent and are NOT to be hit ever again. As with tantrums, remove them from the room and place them in a quiet place. Make sure there is no form of entertainment available. Even a corner will work. If you get hit again, remove every toy they own. The important thing is not to strike back in anger. If the child is kicking and screaming, a swift hard swat to the bottom before placing in the corner works well. There is an exception to this. If you have a child that routinely hits out of anger, not only you, but anyone nearby, a physical and psychological evaluation may be necessary. Establish regular mealtimes. If the child requests a drink or snack, teach them to say please and thank you. You get the item, not the child. This sets limits an out of control child badly needs. Bedtimes need to be established, with an occasional family late night as a reward for cooperating. An hour before bed, bathe the child. Set a story telling half hour aside with them, just prior to bed. If they cry and refuse bedtime, there will be no playtime the next day. Firmly return them to their rooms, each time they get up. Tell them they lose 15 minutes of playtime for each time you are disturbed. It took time, as I said, to develop the negative behavior, it will take time and patience to reverse them. If you are consistent, within a month you should see some major behavioral changes in your children. If not, intervention might be required. You chose to have children. In doing so, you took on the responsibility for raising them to be polite, caring and cooperative. Our nations schools are filled with these unruly children, who not having any moral guidance or discipline, simply carry on as destructively as they do at home. Why not? No ones ever told them differently. As I tell my boys, “I’m your parent, not your friend.” “I love you.” “And that means that I have to make sure you behave in safe ways, that you are someone people enjoy having around.” I’ve explained even adults have rules that we have to live by every day. Being a strong disciplined parent means having the strength of character to care about how your child will impact society as they grow. A healthy family is a reflection of life as a whole. Loving, considerate, respectful of each others feelings and property. Raising happy healthy children keeps Americas promise of a better future, a stronger society and a better world.