By Julie Wales, Family & Special Needs Counsellor 
Many years ago, when our son was smaller we were in turmoil and unable to establish boundaries that we could be consistent in using. FEAR was a big driver for me. 
I feared his meltdowns and the embarrassment it would cause in public when we were trying to do some shopping. 
All the sensory feedback he was getting was too much noise, too many people and feeling overwhelmed as we were! 
I always gave in, and we went home which is what my son wanted. Until we broke the cycle one week and never looked back! 
Fear was pushing me into being a permissive style parent through fear of consequence. In classic permissive style “The permissive parent essentially says, ‘Ok, do your own thing. Whatever you want is OK.’ My years of counselling parents and children have shown me that in a permissive environment, kids’ rebel. They rebel because they feel anger and confused because their parents didn’t offer clear boundaries and limit setting.” So, my son kept on doing the behaviours that got his needs met in all the confusion. 
So true. A very important way to show your children love is to have clear, defined limitations for them. Your kids want guidelines for their lives that are reliably enforced. You are the one who creates a safe environment for them. Setting boundaries is an important part of our job as a parent. It doesn’t mean they won’t push your boundaries, they will. It is a part of their learning process and they may even be upset when you uphold certain boundaries, but they will also feel safe and secure at the same time. Here are 10 ways to establish clear boundaries for your child/teen. 

“When you fail to back up your words with action your words will cease to mean anything.” 

1. Be consistent 

Your kids need to know that they can count on you. When you fail to back up your words with action your words will cease to mean anything. Your discipline and boundary setting will become meaningless. Show them consistency every time and they will trust your word. 

2. Here and now is best 

Follow the guideline that teens are in the moment and being grounded for 6 months is not relevant to them or you and will make it much more difficult to carry through. Make the consequence easier for both of you. For example, less minutes on their devices that day, may better suit the situation. 

3. Be clear 

Miscommunication won’t help to establish a positive environment. Effective communication is necessary. Ask them to repeat back to you what they heard you say to verify it’s understood. It pays to make sure everyone is on the same page. If they are not clear on your boundaries it will be too confusing to adhere to and being clear promotes their safety. 

4. Involve the kids in boundary setting 

Have a family meeting. Family communication gets everyone involved in setting the boundaries. When children share ownership of the rules, they’re more invested. Find out what their motivation is and seek to incorporate in to benefit both of you. It may be extra time together on a weekend. It doesn’t have to cost money. 

5. Draw up a Family contract 

Once the “Family Agreement” has been established, write up a document that everyone will sign. Include daily positives and appreciation of each family member. 

6. Post the rules 

Post copies of the contract in the kitchen and in each bedroom. Remember, these are not restrictions so much as rules to live by. These should be informed by your personal and family values. Do you value kindness? 

7. Recognize appropriate behaviour 

Notice when things are going well.” Too many of us come down on violations like a ton of bricks and never pay attention to what’s going well. If it’s attention they’re after, they’ll get it the negative way. Praise when it is due, especially for their effort. 

8. Avoid labelling children as “good” and “bad” 

Children—and adults—behave in ways that are acceptable and in ways that are unacceptable. Labelling a child as “bad” will do little to improve behaviour and a lot to create a negative self-image. It’s not the child but the behaviour we need to check in with. It’s worth remembering that our brains are not fully formed until the age of 25 or 26. Instead ask what they could do differently next time. Have they got ideas that they could try out? 

9. NEVER undermine the other parent 

“Good-cop, bad-cop” is not a useful game at home. “Don’t tell your mum/dad!” suggests you and your wife are divided. Parents must be supportive of each other. It’s another way to be consistent. 

10. Employ “natural consequences” when possible 

When raising teenagers, natural consequences just make more sense. For younger children, this helps associate negative outcomes with specific behaviour. 
If a room is not cleaned as instructed, at least they have tried and they should be helped if they need help or can you let go of the battle and enjoy fun time? 
Inappropriate talk? Try talking about what the ‘offensive’ word means and how someone may feel if it was said to them. This is trying to promote empathy and expression of feelings. 
What boundaries have you set for your kids that have been the hardest to hold? 
Get in touch and we can chat about a better way for you and your family. 
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