This week, I’ve been doing some personal work on boundaries with the lovely Terri Cole. One of the things I’ve noticed is that I can set a boundary (this is progress as years ago, I didn’t even know what one was) but where I struggled was:
- meaning it
- honouring my own needs
- asking for what I need
How good are you at asking for what you need?
Do you even know what you need?
Children need boundaries to keep them safe
In coaching I see children whose parents have boundaries that are too rigid and children whose parents have weak or no boundaries. I was brought up with both so that was very confusing.
Do you vacillate between being super fine with everything to being really angry and not fine at all?
When you have good healthy boundaries, you don’t need threats, punishment or forced consequences. You can read more about why punishment doesn’t work and how it breeds angry, scared children who can’t set boundaries. If you can’t go within and listen to what is right for you, then it will be hard for you to set boundaries. When we punish children or constantly tell them what to do, yes they are obedient but they don’t know what is right for them. They are not connected to their feelings and what is going on in their bodies. Are you connected to your feelings and what is right for you?
One of the big things for Mums is resentment
They let things build up and build up – take the washing, the ironing, the tidying up. They cope alone. I don’t know why. Maybe like me they find it hard to ask for help. What this results in is going from passive aggressive – it’s fine (it’s not really!) to being really annoyed and turning into a crazy mama. If that’s you, take a look at How to Be Heard Without Turning Up the Volume.
I know I find it hard to ask for help because my needs weren’t met growing up, so the thought of being vulnerable and getting rejection still looms over me. I’ve noticed in my personal and professional life that lots of people struggle with boundaries. It’s a very meaty subject. I’ve already written about part of my journey with boundaries and how you can help your child set boundaries but I wanted to come up with some practical advice and some helpful phrases that you can try.
STOP – CONNECT – SET A BOUNDARY + MEAN IT – ENCOURAGE FEELINGS – GIVE CHOICES
STEP ONE – Stop! Take a breath and stop automatically reacting to your child. Instead take a breath and notice what has happened (become an observer).
This is where the magic of self awareness comes in. Take your focus off your child’s behaviour and come back to you. You can’t control your child but you can do other things. Breathe; be in your body, notice what is going on for you. If your child’s behaviour triggers you, ask yourself later the three Qs (thank you lovely Terri for these):
- When have I felt like this before?
- Why is this dynamic familiar to me?
- Who does this person remind me of?
This gives real insight into what is going on for you. Your child didn’t create the buttons that are being pressed.
STEP TWO – Connect – Use empathy + meet your child where they are
It’s amazing how when we remember we are on the same side and we show understanding for our child’s feelings, how we can help them pass quicker. When we get caught up in the story of who is right or wrong or what should or shouldn’t have been done, we cannot help our child with their feelings. This also can result in the blame or shame game which doesn’t help anybody. So, use connection to be with your child and cheer leading them on to move through their struggle. They can handle their own feelings. They were made that way.
STEP THREE – Set a boundary + mean it!
Say what is or isn’t okay with you and stick to it. Don’t let your child (or anybody for that matter) guilt or shame you into changing your mind if you don’t want to. We have to know ourselves really well and be confident and self assured to stay with ourselves. This is why parenting is such a personal thing. What might be okay for some people will be very different for you. That doesn’t make anybody wrong. It means different people have different values, beliefs, needs and levels of tolerance.
STEP FOUR – Keep dialogue open + encourage feelings
Setting a boundary doesn’t always mean shutting down and shutting off. Usually when we set a boundary with a child, they will push and oppose us further. They test us to see how safe they really are. I think with our children we can honour our own feelings and listen to theirs at the same time. This doesn’t mean we go back on our word or withdraw our boundary.
STEP FIVE – Give choices + hand it back
When it feels like the right moment (when enough feelings have been shown empathy and validated), you can either give choices or ask your child what their choices are. When they are very upset, they won’t be able to do this. They need to process their feelings first. You can’t rush this bit because we all take time to calm down or let go of our stuff when we are ready. If we force this and rush them (usually because we feel uncomfortable or out of control), we are robbing our child of the chance to work it out for themselves.
I now know that when my daughter is being a pickle I have let my connection slip somewhere along the way but that automatically makes me more empathetic to her meltdown. She was all in bed ready to go with the meditation when she decided she wanted more milk. I stuck to my boundary and said that she had already cleaned her teeth so she couldn’t have any more milk. She was cross and told me she was going to go downstairs and get some more. Before I would have stopped her but this time I let her go. She got to the top of the stairs and I said “I would like you to stop, put your hand on your heart and take a deep breath….What do you need to do now?” She said “I need more milk” I repeated the boundary and said how I understood she was disappointed. Your voice in my head ‘meet her with empathy. Empathy, empathy, empathy!’ She came back from the top of the stairs and got in bed and we carried on with the meditation. Yay, thank you!Caroline, Weybridge