HOW TO SET HEALTHY BOUNDARIES WITH YOUR CHILD
Setting healthy boundaries with your child without being permissive or authoritarian can be a challenging task. On one hand, strict parenting undermines your child’s ability to self-discipline. She is more likely to have difficulty managing her anger and may become an adult more prone to depression. On the other hand, permissive parenting sabotages your child’s development as she will not be able to cultivate the ability to tolerate frustration or to manage herself. There is a middle ground that works. When necessary limits are set with empathy, your child will offer less resistance as she feels heard and understood emotionally.
What does setting limits with empathy mean?
1. Establish a strong and supportive connection with your child so that she knows you are on her side. When spending unstructured and uninterrupted time with your child each day, the emotional connection deepens over time.
2. While setting the limit, offer genuine empathy to your child so that she knows you see the limit from her perspective as well. For instance, your child may want your full attention while you are having a discussion with another adult. Let her know you understand her wish by teaching your child to simply place her hand on your wrist and wait. Then, place your hand on hers so that you acknowledge her. If your child is older, you may use a sign that you both chose previously.
3. Limit behavior and allow feelings. It is natural for a child to feel anger and disappointment when you set limits. Your job is to accept these feelings and love her through them. The more you practice this approach, the less her feelings will be overwhelming. If you cannot accept her feelings of anger or sadness, your child learns that they are unacceptable. Then, these feelings do not vanish, but instead go underground and magnify.
If you can provide an emotional “holding environment” while also reinforcing the limit, then your child has the freedom to express and experience her feelings. After crying and grieving about what she cannot have, she will be then ready to move on and let go of that path. She will find a more acceptable path. Over time, she learns she cannot always have her way, but she has someone who loves and accepts her fully the way she is.
This is the most beautiful gift you can make to your child: Your Unconditional Love.
As a parent and a therapist, I want to offer some tips on how to raise happy and healthy kids. Please feel free to comment on my posts.