Loving Boundaries Are The Best Gifts A Parent Can Give A Child

How many times have you been in a public place that you have witnessed a child screaming its head off for no apparent reason?

How many of those times that you witnessed the child screaming did you also witness the parent or caregiver screaming as well?

I think it is sad to realize that this situation happens far too often and that it is (in most situations) completely preventable.

The two questions that come to mind for me in regard to this situation are:

  • Why is the child really screaming?
  • Why is the parent really screaming?

I think the answers to both questions are intertwined. The caregiver likely cannot get past their own fears of lack of control while lacking good parenting skills that would help this person to understand the child’s situation and reframe it making it more positive and healthy for both of them.

I feel it is a major problem in our society today that adults often do not understand the value (or often the existence) of creating and implementing proper structure and boundaries in the lives of their children. The result being children that do not feel properly loved (and thus safe) or taken care of often develop low self-esteem and poor life skills.

Children need boundaries. It is part of the “safety net” they must have in order to function and develop well as they learn about their world. Can you imagine how scary it is for a child to not know the boundaries that are necessary to keep them safe?

Children naturally seek boundaries in their lives. Children who have parents who understand this concept who steadily provide healthy boundaries grow up to be mentally healthy adults. Parents who are mentally healthy will raise mentally healthy children.

When children are raised in an atmosphere of any of the following:

  • Boundaries that are not clearly maintained or are substantiated by threats
  • No clear boundaries at all
  • Boundaries that are excessive
  • Boundaries that are maintained through physical violence or emotional deprivation

Will produce children and later adults that have not been able to develop a clear understanding of how the world functions in a healthy way. The result is anything from adults who function at a basic survival level to violent criminals who believe there are no repercussions for their choices.

Many of the ills of today’s society can be attributed to this philosophy of letting children figure out life for themselves without parental influence. After all, “What do we know about parenting?”

Due to the low levels of effective boundary development afflicting our society we now have a generation or more of people who believe that

  • the established rules for safe driving are just the starting point for getting from point A to point B.
  • it is completely acceptable to ignore the rights and feelings of other people in order to get what they want just because they want it.

The time for teaching boundaries has to be in the early formative years of the child (prior to age 7 including during pregnancy) as this is the time that most of the basic or core beliefs are created that shape the perspective of the adult in later years.

I love watching young parents who understand the importance and value of this concept. One couple in particular that I know have learned how to effectively deal with their child when the child inappropriately starts making a big fuss in a public place.

These parents automatically know that they are responsible to keep their heads on and work the situation through into a safe and healthy outcome for all in a reasonably quick time frame.

The key step is to encourage the child to express their concern in words. “Use your words” they say calmly. “I do not understand what you are trying to say unless you use your words”. Then they patiently wait. Soon the child understands that he or she is being heard and will eventually proceed to verbalize what they were trying to say through screaming. When they discover that screaming does not get them the desired attention, they will cease to use it as a tool for communication. So much better for all of us!

It is all a matter of training. The parents need to understand that the child does not have the understanding or the skill to know what is appropriate and what is not. The child only understands that they are not having their “needs” satisfied and are attempting to communicate as such. It is through the repetitive training provided by the adults that the child learns how to communicate. It is up to the adults to determine whether it is through screaming or words. After all training is training.

It is also absolutely critical that when adults take on the role as parent or caregiver that they understand the importance of creating and maintaining loving boundaries suitable to the age and maturity of the child.

Parents must be diligent at not vacillating on the boundaries enforcing them lovingly and in a supportive manner at all times. The fastest way to lose the child’s respect is to place a boundary on their actions and then not uphold it. Boundaries need to be thought out and reasonable. They need to be enforced through love not by fear.

Boundaries can be adjusted as the child matures but they still need to be enforced. Too often in our society today, teenagers are allowed to believe that they have the same rights as adults and therefore are not subject to boundaries being placed on them by their parents.

The result is often children who feel angry and lost who go out of their way to find those invisible boundaries by driving too fast, being ignorant and self-focussed towards other people and generally believing that they are “entitled” to whatever they choose or believe is rightfully theirs.

Big or little, we all need to have structure and boundaries in our lives. Even animals have rules in their societies. We all know that from watching animal shows on TV and by experiencing nature first hand.

What is to become of our society if we continue this program of anarchy that we are teaching to our children?

In order for our society and its members to grow as individuals, we all need to have and maintain healthy appropriate boundaries. Without appropriate boundaries for each individual member of society, we will see our lifestyle continue to sink to lower and lower levels of depravity.

The rising costs of our social support networks along with the rising costs of crime can be reduced significantly through conscious parenting and effective healthy appropriate boundaries.

It is never too late to start instilling healthy rules for living. It requires constancy and gentle persuasion but it can be done if all parties involved are willing.