Think of boundaries as loving limits that help your kids make good choices.
Walking through the aisles of Target the other day I heard a mom say to her little one “make good choices.” This seems to be something I hear a lot of parents saying to their kids lately. Whether it be at a store, or as a kid runs from the car at school drop off, at a sporting event, you name it.
I thought about those words, “make good choices.” What does that even mean to a kid? Do they really understand the concept?
Throughout the day and their lives, children are required to make quick decisions that can have an impact on their future relationships and life path. As a parent, you may be just like me and wondering how do you help your kids to make good choices? In my opinion, the answer lies within the boundaries we set for them.
[bctt tweet=”Think of boundaries for your kids, as little bumper pads. As soon as they hit the boundary, they’re reminded to shift their behaviors.” username=””]
If you establish boundaries for your young children, they will learn to better control themselves. As they develop self-control and emotional intelligence, your children also grow their capacity to make good choices.
Use these ideas to set boundaries & help your kids make good choices
It’s okay to appropriately express feelings
Tell your kids it’s okay to have and express angry feelings. Studies show that suppressing feelings such as anger, may lead to health concerns and disease later in life. So it’s better if your child expresses their anger, but in a constructive way that is helpful not hurtful.
While it’s okay to express being angry, it’s not okay to injure or hurt another person. You can set this boundary for children as young as two and three years old.
Young children will usually “test the limit,” or challenge your boundary. This is totally normal. When your child tests your boundaries, think of each situation as an opportunity to guide him in his journey of exploring his emotions. However you do need to take control of the situation when boundaries are tested.
If he throws a toy at you or hits you or someone else then follow these steps.
- First, get on his level, look him in the eyes and firmly remind him of the boundary. Let him know he is going to time out for not staying within the boundaries.
- Then quietly take him by the hand and lead him to a designated time-out area. He will stay in timeout for the number of minutes that matches his age (if your child is 2 years old, then sit for 2 minutes; 3 years old, 3 minutes; and so on). We have been using this on both of our boys since they were two.
- During timeout it is important to show no emotion. When you’re establishing boundaries, it’s time to be diplomatic. Be firm, but not frustrated or angry. Simply state, “It’s not okay to throw a toy at Mommy. When you throw a toy, you have to sit in a chair,” and say nothing more until the minutes have passed.If your child leaves the designated timeout area before his timeout is up, simply go get him and bring him back to timeout. Do not say anything to him so that he knows you are serious.
- When the time is up, thank your child for sitting in the chair. Ask if you can give him a hug. Then go on with your day.
Hopefully, the child will not throw a toy or hit again. Instead, they’ll see that you allowed them to have and show feelings without negative consequences, as long as they stayed within your boundary.
Answer Mom or Dad when they call you
Honestly, this is really a safety issue more than anything. Your child must answer you when you call their name.
Establish a rule that children stop what they’re doing, and verbally answer you if you call their names. Setting this boundary teaches your child from a young age that what you have to say is important. It can even be a crucial boundary that saves their lives.
I set this boundary very early with both of my boys and I will never forget the day it saved the life of my youngest son.
We had just left a Botanical Center in our town. Right outside the door and around the corner of the center are train tracks – why on Earth something for kids is this close to active train tracks I have no idea. Why there is no fence to keep little ones away from the train tracks – again I have no idea.
We walked out of the Botanical Center and my youngest who was three at the time and loved trains because they reminded him of his Papa, ran full speed towards the train tracks. I heard the sound of a train whistle in the distance. I screamed his name followed by the word STOP. Thank God he stopped. He was about five feet from the tracks. I ran to him, tears in my eyes and so grateful for the boundary I had put in place with him. I get tears in my eyes to this day when I share this story.
Hold Mom’s hand when out of the house
After the encounter at the Botanical Center I worked diligently to make sure this next boundary was in place and followed without fail. I encourage and invite every mom to set a boundary that when you go out in public with your 2 to 6 year-old, he must hold your hand.
This boundary aids your child in two ways: he learns to follow directions and develops self-control. Plus let’s face it, this is another boundary that will keep your child safe.
He can’t run out into traffic if he is holding your hand. He can’t run around causing a scene at the store if he is holding on to your hand. Having this rule makes a profound difference in how your children chooses to behave in public.
Parenting is one of the most challenging jobs ever. If you establish and keep boundaries for your children when they’re very young, your work will be easier. Plus, those boundaries help to train and influence your child to make positive choices all his life.
As a parent, you have the power to set up and maintain appropriate boundaries for your kids from a very young age. You can do this mama! Go ahead and create happier, healthier lives for your kids by setting loving limits for them to follow – and in turn, help them make good choices.