I recently wrote a very well received blog post on setting boundaries. This is something that many people struggle with. One of the areas where I see people have struggle setting boundaries is in their relationships with their children. I have previously written about how children need to be disappointed because I see a growing trend of parents trying to be friends with their children rather than parents. When your children are under 18 you cannot be both a friend and a parent. This is not to say that you cannot have a trusting and communicative relationship with your child, you can. But you cannot be their friend. Children need boundaries. I have often had children in therapy tell me in different ways how they really do want their parents to set and enforce rules. Yes, even teenagers often tell me this. That is not to say that they won’t rebel against the rules, but that is their job in adolescence. The parent’s job is to set the rules to keep their children safe and to help them to grow up into responsible and productive adults.
I think often times parents do not realize how damaging it can be to not set firm rules with their children. These children become adults who think rules don’t apply to them. That trait does not lend well to a person being successful.
So why is it so hard for parents to set limits with their children? I often see parents just get tired and give into something. Children will always challenge if they know they have a parents who disciplines inconsistently. I hear parents complain about how their children do not listen to them, but then see them not follow through with consequences. If you don’t communicate to your child that you are serious, than they won’t treat what you say seriously. To change this is difficult but necessary. You change it by consistently following through with a consequence when the child doesn’t respond appropriately. You cannot do it once or twice and expect a change; you need to be firm and consistent in your efforts for at least a month. That may feel impossible, but it takes time for the child to adjust to the changes. No matter how hard it might be to do, it is one of the most important things you will do as a parent.
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