I know there’s quite a bit of advice floating around about raising your children. I’ve read countless articles and books about raising my children right, but in the end I only use the information I feel I’ll be able to enforce and information I feel is truly right for raising my children. I have different methods based on my children’s personalities. I also have boundaries with my children. For instance, my oldest is 13. His siblings are 8 and younger. I give him the illusion of privacy by making sure to knock on his door before entering and asking him to unlock his phone or computer when I’m going to go through them. He & I both know I’m fully capable of obtaining entrance to any of these places but he also loves the respect I give him by not doing so. His siblings aren’t allowed to enter his bedroom or use his electronics either unless he gives them permission. Here are what I feel are the top FIVE boundaries children need to flourish!
- MAKE SURE THEY CAN TRUST YOU. Don’t promise things you can’t deliver. Don’t blame others for your mistakes. Own your faults. Acknowledge promises you’ve made but broke and let your children express their hurt. These open lines of communication will make it harder for your children to lie to you. They’ll want to be honest with you because they respect you. They’ll want to make sure you can trust them.
- LET YOUR CHILDREN ESTABLISH BOUNDARIES. You’d be shocked at what boundaries your children want. One of my daughters has a drawer she doesn’t want her little brother or sister to go in. That’s a good boundary. I give her that boundary and if she gets upset about it then I will bring it up to whomever went in her drawer. I know that my one daughter cannot handle failure (which is any grade lower than a 90 to her). I do not talk to her about her grades in front of her siblings. I make sure we talk about them privately so that she doesn’t feel “stupid” or whatever other word another child may call her because they don’t know any better.
- WORK WITH THEIR OTHER PARENT. This is a hard one, especially when communication & trust may not be there with your spouse or former spouse. It’s crucial the children don’t see a divide. They’ll play you against each other and you’ll believe only what you want because you “hate” that other parent. It’s important the children see you as a team, whether you want to believe that or not. I’m currently No Contact with their father. It’s hard raising four children without being about to just openly communicate about their days. We tried but failed at honest, truthful communication post-divorce. Add in the distance we live from each other and he’s a phone parent. I do most of the time with the children and he will believe what they say over what I say, as I do him, because we haven’t had real relationship in years. If any of you are facing a separation or divorce make sure you establish clear boundaries with your former partner. It’s crucial to your own wellbeing as well as your children’s wellbeing that these boundaries are placed.
- AVOID LABELS. This is crucial. Don’t call your child a liar because they’ve lied. Don’t say that “Johnny down the street is always bad” because he has had a rough few weeks. One of the worst things I’ve heard a family member tell my daughter at a very young age is that “it’s not always about you!” I was unable to confront this relative because they already hated me and they weren’t from “my side” of the family. Children are allowed to have bad days. If YOUR child is facing being labeled it’s important that YOU fix it. Do they need therapy? More dates with just a parent? More responsibilities? Less screen time? There is NO ONE who is ALWAYS good and there is NO ONE who is ALWAYS bad. Look deep down inside of yourself before you label a child one way or the other and make sure you find whatever empathy you may have for that child. Some statements that work better are “do you remember when you held the door open for your sister instead of closing it in her face? How did that make you feel?” You’d be shocked at the dialogue it opens up. Many times within one or two questions my child will tell me what really drove them to behave that way. I compliment my children when they do chores, not to say one is better than the other, but to say “way to go!” See what works!
- ALLOW NATURAL CONSEQUENCES TO HAPPEN. My oldest is infamous for wearing sweatshirts and jeans in 90+ degree weather. I let him do that. He’s learned to wear a t-shirt underneath because sometimes it’s just too hot. He has learned to dress for the weather if we are doing outside activities. My children are parkour lovers. They will jump off of anything and everything. I just let them do it. So far no broken bones from parkour…but I know they’ll happen eventually! I’ll get emails about certain tests and assignments. I will remind my children that I can help them prepare for them, or they can get their father on FaceTime and he can help. Many times they choose to go about it on their own and get upset at their grades. The next test I find they reach out for help so they get a better grade. Sometimes children need to learn by failure. That’s okay. They will live.