“I’m your parent, not your friend.”

I speak to a lot of parents and I often hear them say, ‘I don’t understand why my child behaves the way they do.’ Parents are looking for strategies that will help bring some control back into their home.

Recently a parent shared her frustration about how her daughter doesn’t listen to her. When digging a little deeper, she told me that she often gives in after saying no. While she feels disrespected, her daughter has learned that if she pushes hard enough, she’ll get what she wants.

During one of my student workshops, a grade seven student said, ‘My Mum is weak. When she gives me a consequence she doesn’t actually do it because I can talk her out of it.’ Her mother most likely sees her action as kind and caring while her daughter sees it as weakness.

We can’t expect our children to treat us differently than we model to them. They pay more attention to what we do than what we say.

Boundaries are something that most parents struggle with. There are a couple of reasons for this:

1. Parents Want Their Children to Like Them

Children have big emotions. They can explode without a moment’s notice, especially when they aren’t getting their own way.

While it doesn’t feel great to have your child yelling, ‘I don’t like you’ it doesn’t mean they don’t like you – what they are really saying is, ‘I don’t like your rules and I don’t like your consequences’.

In my UPower presentations, I teach young people how to process their emotions in healthy ways instead of reacting in hurtful ways. Once they have moved through the emotion, it clears the way for them to make a choice from a more reliable place – their character.

As parents, we need to do the same thing. If we make a decision based on how we feel (fear, guilt, wanting to avoid conflict) about our child not liking us, we are reacting to our emotions, rather than acting with the intent of teaching our child about boundaries, rules, and consequences.

For me, when I move through my emotions in a healthy way I am able to make my choice from, ‘I Choose to Respect Myself and Others.’ When I do this, my choice looks way different than saying, ‘I made that choice because I felt like it.’

While wanting your children to like you comes from the right place, it’s not a good strategy for either of you.

2. Parents want to teach their children to make their own choices

While it’s important to allow children to make age-appropriate choices, it’s also important to set boundaries.

Many parents make the mistake of thinking their child has the logic and reasoning of an adult and will make the right choices for themselves (I have had those moments).

Unfortunately, they do not have the life experiences to pull from, nor the maturity to know what might be in their best interest.

If always allowed to do whatever they want, it causes conflict at home, school and in their relationships. People around them start to pull away which negatively affects their self esteem.

Boundaries teach children what is appropriate when dealing with others. It also helps children to feel safe, a key element in the development of confidence.

What Are Healthy Boundaries?

Boundaries are guidelines or rules that you set to show what is reasonable, safe and allowed. They also include what happens when the boundaries aren’t respected.

Boundaries are important for:

  • Self care
  • Self respect
  • Resilience
  • Communicating your needs in relationships
  • Setting limits on relationships
  • Building trust
  • Separating your thoughts, needs, desires from what others want.
  • Making healthy choices
  • Taking responsibility for yourself

These are all important lessons for your children, but it has to start with you!

Strategies For Creating Healthy Boundaries

1. Be Clear About Your Boundaries and Consequences

Since emotions are constantly changing, they are not a reliable place to make choices from.

Knowing what boundaries and consequences work best for your child ahead of time will stop you from making a decision in the heat of the moment – one you may later regret.

One Dad shared with me that he was so angry with his daughter that he told her there would be no birthday party for her. The Dad later took that back as he realized he acted out of anger and that he was looking forward to planning her party.

It’s important that you make a consequence that is reasonable and you are OK to follow through with it.

2. Be The Parent, Not A Friend

Be OK with your child not liking the boundary. If they are used to getting their own way, they will test it until they realize the boundary is here to stay.

There is no reason to feel guilty. Remain firm. Stay consistent. Remember you are arming your child with important life skills.

Growing up my Mum used to say, ‘You need me to be your parent, not your friend.’ She also used to say, ‘You may not like me right now, however you need to respect me.’ Not words I enjoyed hearing as a young person.

As it turns out, I’m saying the same words to my son.

3. Express Your Feelings In A Healthy Way

Students have told me that they would prefer the adults in their life name their emotions instead of just reacting out of them. By naming your emotions and communicating how you feel, you help teach children to do the same.

If you are having trouble naming your emotions, use the “Elephant in The Room” poster.

By connecting the dots between your emotions and their behaviour, it will help them understand the impact emotions have on their choices.

4. Get Support

If you find setting boundaries challenging join the UPower Parents group on Facebook for discussions, articles and support on positive parenting and teaching emotional intelligence skills.

Until next time,