There are a lot of different parenting styles out there. If there was a scale, you would probably catch Josh and I right smack in the middle when it comes to strict versus passive parenting. That being said, if there’s one thing I’ve learned from parenting, and even more as our kids get older, it’s that kid’s thrive when they have boundaries. Boundaries not only helped to establish expectations, but they build trust between kids and their parents.
Here are a few boundaries I think are especially important to set with kids, starting from when they’re young.
This is a new one for me and Josh! I’ll admit, we have not been the best in this area. Up until recently, the kids have been allowed to “sneak” into our bed each night, somewhere around 1:00 a.m. (I’m guessing, as I’m usually half conscious when they do). The reason Josh and I haven’t kicked them out sooner is that, to be honest, Josh and I cherish these moments and we know the kids won’t want to do this forever. That, and because they weren’t starting the night in our bed, it wasn’t exactly hurting our intimacy if you know what I mean.
That being said, we get horrible sleep. And getting horrible sleep makes us less productive in the morning. Ok, maybe throughout the whole day. So, we’ve decided to build a boundary around our bed. On Tuesday nights, the kids are allowed to sleep in our bed (and they don’t even have to sneak in). But, the rest of the week, the kids are expected to sleep in their own beds. Or at least in David’s bunk beds.
Mom & Dad alone time
Going further than just having our bed to ourselves a night, Josh and I are pretty clear with the kids that we need alone time together at night. The way we make this make sense to the kids is by saying that Daddy and I are best friends, and if we want to stay best friends we need to have a loan time together 🤣
Honestly, I’m pretty sure they get it and for the most part they’re able to accept it.
What I mean by this is that the way the kids talk to us as Mom and Dad is going to be different than the way they talk to their friends. Well we don’t try to be strict simply for the sake of being strict, we do expect them to speak to us in a respectful way. For example, we’re teaching Evy to respond to us with “Yes” or “No, thank you” rather than a “Mm Hmm” or “Mm mmm.”
This also has to do with how they respond to hearing “No” from us. Do they keep trying to ask for what we just said no to? Do they start whining and stomping their feet? Both of these in it are unacceptable. While we started giving warnings for this type of thing, the kids have by now I heard it from us enough to know what we expect.
One of the downfalls I often witness in parents with their kids is too many warnings and much less follow-through. This is something I’ve definitely been guilty of in the past that I’m trying to work on. What parents need to understand, and what I’ve had to learn myself, is if warnings come without any follow-through, kids will learn that they can push through the warnings and either continue with their poor behavior without any consequences, or even continue with their poor behavior to get what they want.
What’s worse, and what we’ve learned in our adoption training, is that kids respond best when they believe their primary caretakers are competent. And, at the end of the day, kids see consistency and dependability as competency. If kids know they can wear down their primary and caretakers by simply not listening or abiding by warnings, they won’t believe them to be competent or dependable. This doesn’t mean the kids will always take “No” for an answer and be happy about it. But it does mean that they will learn to trust what you say and respect that you mean it.
David and Evy are now 6 and 3. And while our expectations of them have changed with their age and level of maturity, we’ve almost always allowed them to feel some level of responsibility. Most recently, we expect them to help here and there with our dog, Rainy, putting laundry away, sometimes helping to put away dishes, and by cleaning up their toys.
Sure, this practically helps out Josh and I a lot, especially seeing as David is actually surprisingly good at tidying up. But beyond that, it helps the kids understand that what they do affects more than just themselves. If they don’t help clean up their own mess, it means someone else has to, which isn’t particularly fair. Now, of course, as their mom and dad we do spend a lot of our time picking up their messes which is appropriate for moms and dads. But we believe that giving them gradual, age appropriate, responsibility will help them to be empathetic and responsible young adults in the near future. It’s all about helping to develop the kids / young adults / adults we hope for them to be in the future.
Kids are born with the mindset “What’s yours is mine, and what’s mine is mine.”
Sometimes as parents, I think moms especially, we feel guilt for not sharing some of the things we enjoy with our kids. The thing is, our kids simply don’t need to be privileged to have all of the same things we do.
For example, Josh and I will have the occasional “cheat night” where we share some ice cream. On a couple occasions, we’ve accidentally left evidence of our cheat night on the kitchen counter after the kids wake up the next morning. They then say something along the lines, “Heyyyyy why didn’t we get ice cream???” To which we reply, “It was Mommy and Daddy’s turn to have a treat.” And that’s about all the explanation they need.
The truth is, the kids eat way more sweets than we do. And we don’t always need to share our sweets with them. Just like we don’t make them share their sweets with us. But this goes further than simply sharing food; it might be special household items, self-care items, maybe even screen time.
Whatever it is, I think it’s important for our kids to understand that they are not entitled to everything we, as adults, get to do or have. But, we do try to play fair as much as we can.
What boundaries would you add to the list? Have you established any that have been especially helpful to you and your kids? Share them in the comments below!