The Next Generation

Boundary Setting

Food for thought. This is from the Visible Child Facebook page of Robin Einzig the Visible Child Facebook page:

“There was a terrific thread today about limit setting. I wrote this as my final comment, but thought it was worth sharing here. I am copying it verbatim, so in this case, it’s about jumping on a couch. But it could be about ANYTHING. It’s the same answer. In COMPLETELY uncharacteristic fashion, I am providing “instructions.” Here you go:

“Okay I’m going to get SUPER concrete and instructional here. If it’s REALLY important to you that children not jump on the couch (if you’ve decided that this is one of your boundaries that MUST be observed, no questions), then (preferably right from the start, i.e as soon as they’re able to stand on the couch, but if you didn’t do that, then whenever you start) you commit and devote yourself to being in that room whenever they are in that room, 100% of the time (yes, no leaving the room to cook or go to the bathroom or anything without taking them with you), and when you see them first move to stand on the couch (which is a necessary precursor to jumping!), you put out your arm or you reach out and hold their body (since you’re already right there) and you say, firmly but kindly, with a serious face, “I can’t let you stand or jump on the couch. You may sit on your bottom on the couch or you may jump on the trampoline (ideally, you have a small trampoline nearby, rather than them having to go outside, etc.) or on your bed.” You do that, without exception, as many time as it takes. WIth young children, it can take 20 or 30 times or more. You may eat takeout or cold cuts or cereal and milk for a week–no problem, you’re investing that week in setting a firm limit around something you have decided is REALLY important. You are NEVER not in the room when they are in the room, so that you are ready to stop it and block it BEFORE it happens, because responding after the fact is about 10% as effective, since you’ve already let it happen.

But Robin…this is a HUGE amount of work. I cant’ be staying in the room with them 100% of the time. Yes, it’s a huge amount of work. This is what investment in setting firm limits looks like. You won’t always have to do this whole thing because once they get it that a firm limit means it will NEVER be allowed, they will know that you mean what you say, and gradually, they won’t need this level of support to follow a limit. You are establishing yourself as the leader, and making it clear that you literally are NOT going to let something happen that you don’t want to happen, you’re not just going to let it happen and then tell them not to do what they just did. You’re taking complete responsibility for making sure the boundary is held, rather than relying on young children to “do what you say.” Yes, you CAN stay in a room with them 100% of the time. I did it. Lots of people have done it. It’s possible. It’s the investment. It’s how you establish yourself as a calm, confident authority who is willing to walk the walk. It’s an investment that will pay off not only in the short term (after the first grueling week or so), but all the way throughout childhood and into adulthood. It will make SO many other problems, including throughout adolescence, either non-existent or SO much easier to solve.

Respectful parenting IS a lot more work. It’s a choice. It’s an investment. It’s worth it. Believe those of us with adult children now, who have already reaped the many rewards. Not everyone can do it or wants to do it or chooses to do it. If you want to, we’re here to support you.

This is what real limit setting looks like, when you have decided that something is really worth putting this much energy into. If it ISN’T worth this amount of energy, then it’s not a limit that’s that important, and I would advise examining your need for control, and work on letting go of it altogether.” “

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