Parents often struggle in managing their childrens’ behaviors. Frustration and a lack of time also add to a growing inability to create a calm home environment. One of the essential tools in creating a home where children can grow and parents can feel good about themselves, is to implement boundaries or a set of rules for behavior. Boundaries are limits that allow children to navigate their world safely while also taking responsibility for their actions. Parents often don’t understand that challenging or negative behaviors on the part of their children are often the result of unclear or unstated expectations from them.
With boundaries clearly defined, children begin to understand what is acceptable behavior. While setting boundaries seems like an obvious right of parenting, it’s importance is often overlooked or minimized, and children are often unclear about what behaviors are acceptable.
During my years as a parent coach, I have found that the following strategies help parents create a calmer home environment:
1 – Define your Boundaries-Create a List of Family Rules! Coming up with a list of family rules is the first step in taking control of your household. Together with your children, come up with a list of those behaviors that are acceptable and those that are not.
The list should be short and to the point. Don’t over-do it as children will often tune you out when you overload them with too many rules. The rules should be written and displayed in your home for all to see.
Children feel safe and are better behaved when they know their behaviors are being monitored.
2 – Provide Structure! If there is anything that undermines the calmness of a families’ home, it’s the lack of structure or consistency in routine, on the part of the parent. When parents start early in implementing a consistent routine for their children, the household runs more smoothly and children feel less stress. Morning and nighttime routines are essential in providing children with the resourcefulness to cope with all of the demands placed upon them throughout their day. You will find less arguing and yelling when your children are well rested. In addition, predictability and routine reduce uncertainty and anxiety in children as well. Although not always possible, parents should continually stick to a daily schedule to maintain a smoother running household.
3 – Effective Discipline Strategies! Once you define the family rules, enforce them- this is key to family harmony! Finding balance between nurturing and structure is essential for raising happy, healthy children. When family rules are broken, parents must respond in a consistent manner. Remember- be patient when starting new discipline strategies, it takes time and you must follow through. The most important thing parents can be is consistent when implementing or enforcing consequences. “Intermittent reinforcement” (implementing rules or boundaries inconsistently), for children with oppositional or more challenging behaviors, only reinforces resistance to a parent’s desire for acceptable behavior.
Also, be clear when a child asks a question or engages in an undesirable behavior. Don’t use “maybe” or “we’ll see” – that sends a message of uncertainty. Use “yes” or “no” – do not engage in long discussions. As I often told my children, “Its my job to say no” when appropriate, if I don’t, “I wouldn’t be doing my job!”
Boundaries are the key to creating a home environment that is calm, loving and nurturing. In addition, setting boundaries for our children allows them to develop healthy self esteem and self control. When children know rules and behavioral expectations, they feel safe and secure. Setting up expectations for appropriate behavior also allows children to tolerate a reasonable amount of frustration and disappointment. The is the foundation for the development of healthy, responsible and productive children.