The number one hardest part of parenting and one of the most important aspects of parenting is the follow through. From the promise to go to the park to the time you say you will leave if a child does a behavior again, it is important to follow through with what you say you are going to do. This creates a predictability for the child and while it will not eliminate testing and rebellious behavior entirely, children will take comfort in the boundaries it creates.
The parenting vocabulary of the time is “setting healthy boundaries” in fact this is a catch phrase that goes for all. When people set healthy boundaries, they can be clear what they are willing to do for others and can follow through with what they say as goes with age old adage of “say what you mean, mean what you say.” People appreciate predictability and appreciate people who act in predictable ways and children develop boundaries when the adults around them have consistent expectations.
Sometimes parents respond with anger or desperation by making threats like I will throw away your toys if you don’t clean them up. Most times parents don’t follow through with this threat which causes children not to fear loss of their items and in turn not feel the need to clean them up. Caregivers may throw some away at one time and not another so children may be unsure what type of response they may have at any given time when they chose not to clean up their toys. This unpredictability makes it difficult for children to develop healthy boundaries as they may always have to “test” adults to see what type of response they will give.
Caregivers need to remember that boundaries, rules and guidelines are meant to teach children and not to punish. By developing clear expectations, remaining calm and following through with the expectations and allowing children to learn from their own mistakes, this is the true lessons that they will learn from. Caregivers that try to punish to teach a lesson will only effect the trust in the relationship.
Here is an example of follow through that is respectful yet consistent:
Caregiver:“You can have 3 cookies.” Child- “But I want more!” Caregiver: “I understand that the cookies are good, I like them too. You can have apples or carrots if you are still hungry.” Child: “no! I want more cookies!” Caregiver: You have two options for apples or carrots and can let me know if you would like some.
Sometimes, caregivers need to end the discussion after stating the expectation as children will try to argue to the point of submission which sometimes has been known to work.
When parents can stay consistent and calm then children can learn boundaries and guidelines to follow with all the adults in their lives.
By Tiffany Madsen