Children not only crave boundaries, they’re absolutely necessary for raising healthy children.
When you start to set boundaries, there’s always going to be a protest. The protest is a test to see if you fold and a natural expression of discomfort. How you handle this part is way more important than the actual boundary.
I grew up fatherless. Looking back, I can remember I absolutely craved boundaries and structure.
When we don’t set boundaries out of fear of not being loved by our children, we create little monsters that walk all over us. It’s human nature.
When I set a boundary with some of the children I work with, I have a very effective strategy. First I think of what I want the child to do next after I set the boundary. This is key because just setting a boundary then looking at the child ends up seeking approval or a power struggle.
We’re not eating cookies anymore right before dinner (as I take the box of cookies), Please put these towels away (As I hand the child towels) and get ready for dinner, thank you.
This is not a negotiation. I’m not a jerk about it. I’m not scared nor am I hesitant.
The child should take the towels and get into action. There should also be a slight protest that shows up as a look of rejection in their eyes or a frowning face. You must not be moved one tiny bit by this or you fail the test and risk getting into an unproductive power struggle.
Avoid looking into the child’s eyes because most parents will have a look of “I am in control or, a look that is seeking approval.” These types of looks are begging for trouble. This is why the towel piece is key.
We want the child to submit to the boundary, not to us.