Recently I’ve been reading Boundaries, which has me thinking about boundaries with myself, kids, marriage, work, and friendships. I’ve enjoyed it quite a bit in spite of it being painful at times. It has been very effective in bringing my shortcomings and growth opportunities to the surface.
Before I read the book, I stumbled across a truth the book has served to formalize. Levi was having trouble going to sleep at night and kept marching to our bedroom, crying and refusing to go to bed. We tried just about everything, until one night I asked him, “Do you want the door OPEN or CLOSED?” I knew the answer. He wanted it open. But that night, as a complete accident, he whispered, “Open,” calmed down, and fell asleep.
So I tried it again. And every night since. It turns out that Levi responds well to options. He doesn’t like it when you say, “Levi stop crawling over your mother at the dinner table.” He’ll respond much better to, “Would you like to eat dinner in the chair or go sit quietly in your room?” He takes former most of the time. It’s up to him.
Months later, Boundaries has helped me formalize this into a way of treating my children. It turns out when you tell people what the limits are and give them consequences for crossing the limits, you can leave the choice up to him. No more controlling, yelling, or flailing around. Just say, “Would you like to do X or have consequence Y? It’s totally up to you.” This has worked wonders for our stress level as a family during difficult situations. And it all comes back to boundaries in young children: they want to know that they are in control of their world and that ultimately there is a point at which others stop and they begin. It’s a fundamental human need to know that one exists separate from others.
When I was flailing around trying to control them into doing what I wanted them to do, I nonverbally told them, “You don’t start at any point. You do whatever I say, therefore there is no will for you to exercise, therefore you don’t exist.” Any rational person, even a two year old, will respond, in essence, with, “The hell I don’t!”
Friday, December 31, 2010
Boundaries With Kids
My dear husband doesn't post on his personal blog very often, but he wrote this post this morning, and I thought it was great. He's letting me post it here, too. :)