Recently, I was told that parents think applying the “line in the sand,” aka a boundary, is the act of a strict, angry parent. I agree that any parenting you do, if delivered in anger, will prevent authentic learning.
Why?
Because kids withdraw inward to withstand the intensity you send when you deliver an angry boundary, they don’t listen or think about what they have done.
 
Having said all that, the concept of a “line in the sand” remains one of the key pillars of parenting.
 
We all know there are many ways to look at the same scenario. Today, I want to offer you another perspective on boundaries and explain why they are a key pillar for parenting.
 
If you look at boundaries from a child’s point of view, you’ll see that kids act like they want all the power to decide the rules; however, when a child is told, “Stop, we don’t grab cookies without asking.” they may pout, whine, or complain. Then, after a few minutes, they accept the boundary, especially if you follow with empathetic statements about how hard it is to accept this boundary.
 
Kids secretly act like they want all the responsibility of adult decisions,
but they don’t; they want to be kids.
 
If you flip the way you apply a boundary, it moves from an act of a strict parent to an act of an instinctive parent.
 
Caveman days
Boundaries began during the Stone Age when families were exposed to open fires and animals that wanted to eat them. Boundaries were an instinctive reaction to reality; they set the rules that will save your life. Of course, life has changed, but the premise of boundaries remains the same.
 
One example would be everyday conversations. If you don’t teach your child how to be conversational when talking, they will grow up to dominate conversations and could lose friends. That’s a boundary that applies to life in the 21st century.
 
Parents still feel the unconscious pull to apply boundaries intuitively, but they are confused about which comes first the chicken or the egg, the line in the sand or the empathy? Let me clarify.
 
The line in the sand comes 1st.
Suppose your child is doing something that’s clearly against the rules, and when you say “stop!” they begin arguing, whining, pouting, shoving, throwing, or stomping—you catch my drift, do you think saying, “Honey, I know this is hard.” will curtail the behavior or will it end them toward a more significant reaction so they can express their outrage?
 
Empathetic, loving, and kind words are so important, but they aren’t the first words you say when applying a rule, an agreement, or a boundary.
 
When it’s time to state a boundary, you [the parent] stop, take a deep breath, find your parental voice, and clearly say, “Stop, now, please,” and then go silent. Repeat if need be.
Then, when and only when the child stops, add your empathy, “Honey, I know this is hard, but you need to lower your voice when talking so my ears can understand you.”
 
Once your child respects the rule, the boundary, or the agreement, you can bring in more empathetic mindful words and actions that make them feel even more seen and heard.
 
Why do I believe using “the line in the sand” or a boundary is a key pillar for parenting?
Because early childhood is the time in life when the foundational experiences of respect, listening and following the rules are created and defined in the subconscious, that understanding is worked, practiced, and refined during early childhood and the elementary years, so when the kids become tweens and teens, they have a foundation of respect and the habit of following the rules instead of needing to constantly challenge them during the combative years. 
 
I hope that clears some things up for you about boundaries. If not, feel free to send me a question, and I’ll stay on this topic and address it in next week’s newsletter.
 
In case you were wondering, we offer a self-paced playbook where five of the ten methods address boundaries, rules, and apologies. It’s called 10 No-Yelling Methods that Keep you Calm as you Correct Behavior. You can get it in our store on the website, www.proactiveparenting.net
Now, go hug your kids,
Sharon

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