The Dad Page

Setting boundaries

When we talk about setting boundaries with our children it may feel daunting but actually you have probably set boundaries from the outset of parenthood. Boundaries and routines need to be firmly in place and the younger you can start this with your children the better but it is never too late to put boundaries in place, whatever their age.

Every child needs appropriate boundaries and routines in place to make them feel safe, secure and loved. It is also normal for children to test those boundaries and we may also need to adjust boundaries as our children grow through different stages in their development.

We can spend a lot of time with our children at home nagging them constantly about all the things they are NOT doing but how much time do we spend praising them for all the good things that they are doing?

“Well done for taking your plate out I really do appreciate it when you are helpful.”

Our homes are governed with rules and expectations of our children but how often do we show them what we expect them to do instead of just assuming they know?

“How about I show you how to hang up the wet towel on the radiator?”

It may sound silly to you but actually, if all we do is shout commands at our children they do eventually switch off!

One of the strategies we encourage parents in our parenting groups to do is to sit around the table and discuss household rules with the whole family and encourage them to participate in what they think should be an important rule. Children are more likely to follow the rules if they help to set them up.

It is also worth thinking about what we want them to do instead of making rules about what we don’t want them to do. Instead of a rule about no hitting in the house, make the rule about using “nice hands.” Instead of a rule about no shouting in the house, make the rule about “using your indoor voice” and make sure they fully understand what this means.

If the rule is acknowledged, then put in a reward – five minutes extra spent reading with mum, or a game to play after tea. If the rule is broken you would need to put an appropriate consequence, such as five minutes taken off their screen time.

When we speak clearly and precisely with our children and calmly tell them what we want, it is a lot less confusing for them. Also if we give our children a reason why this behaviour is important it can make more sense to them in the long run.

“Let’s put the toys away” is opening up for an argument with your child because he can say “No let’s not!” So we need to be clear and give instructions. “Please can you tidy up your toys, you have five minutes to do this, as they are all over the floor and someone will fall over them soon.”

You can pick up more handy tips and listen to lots of healthy discussions regarding discipline strategies on the parenting courses that we run, and by visiting the parenting section of our website www.fegans.org.uk/parents