Monday, October 30, 2017

I think it’s important to have boundaries in our relationships with the children. Sometimes parents think if they say “No” to a child, that it means they don’t love him. It’s actually quite the opposite! Little children feel insecure and uncomfortable if they don’t know what is allowed and what is not. It gets even more confusing when the boundaries exist but change all the time. No wonder we see so many temper tantrums and arguing. Our smart little human being thinks he can make us change our mind because yesterday we let him have a piece of cake and today for some reason, he hears “No”.
It’s easy to say “Yes” and not have to deal with the drama, but in the long term it makes things worse. Being consistent is critical in our parenting journey. Each family needs to decide what is allowed in their home and what is off limits.

Here are some of the main housekeeping rules in my family, which we agreed to after several deliberations between my husband and I.
  • We make sure that both of us are on the same page and our children see and expect the same reaction from their actions.
When we were coming up with our list, one of my biggest concerns was not to have a long list of forbidden things without rationale to support denying my children of a thing or activity. The older a child becomes, the more important it is for them to know why certain rules apply in the home. Simply, “because I said so” doesn't work.
Our list prioritizes our children’s safety as the main framework.
  •  We both need to follow the same rules as our children.
For example, it’s very disrespectful to eat chips in front of your child while offering them broccoli. It would hurt anyone’s feelings to see others do what you yourself cannot. It’s almost like your boss sits at a meeting with a cup of coffee and tells you can’t do this because someone might burn his hand. How would it make you feel? I  often ask this question of myself. It helps me to understand my children a little better. Sometimes we forget that our little boys and girls have hearts and can feel just like we, adults, do.
  •  In my family, we also don’t want to be parents that yell at our children all day long: don’t touch this, don’t go there, you can’t sit here etc. It’s pretty frustrating for the child to be under such micromanagement. Their innate curiosity and spirit of discovery is very much hampered by such needless control or “education”. It’s sad to observe “helicopter” moms in the park that don’t let their children sit on the grass, take off their shoes, or pick up some dirty sticks and rocks. You can literally see how unhappy and sad the child feels. None of the listed things above are unsafe. In fact, doctors have proven that germs in a child’s life make their immune systems stronger. It doesn't’ mean we never wash our hands though, but we don’t wash them hundreds of times a day either.
Some other rules that work for our family (make sure you have some “yes” on the list too):

1.When we come home from playing outdoors, we always all wash our hands (mom too).
2.We can all have a small dessert after dinner.
3.We have to brush our teeth, floss and use the bathroom before bed.
4.We use “inside voices” at home and “outside voices” (yes, including yelling) when we are outside.
5.We can jump on our beds, dance, sing and run in the house but only during the day. When it gets dark, we play quiet games. This can be a challenge in the summer when at 7:30pm the sun is still high in the sky.
6.We never leave our house without cleaning up all of our toys and putting them in the appropriate baskets and shelves. Each time we come home, we look forward to entering a tidy environment.
7.Every morning we make our beds. Generally, it’s mom that makes the bed with the kids passing the pillows, or holding the corner of the blanket. As they get older, they will participate more in this task. Also, we always dedicate focused time in the mornings to spending with the kids. If you work and your child needs to get ready for a school, this rule may not apply to your family situation. One Saturday morning we were in a hurry to leave the house because our day was planned with activities. At some point in the car, my son exclaims, “Oh no, mommy, we forgot to make our beds! Shall we go back?” As you can tell, they enjoy having rules and remember them well.
8.If the toys are not organized and my children refuse to put them away, they “disappear” for a few days. The concept here is the toys belong to you, but if you can’t take care of your belongings, mom will do it, but the toys won’t be yours for some time.

9.If someone makes a mess, that person cleans it (with some help, if needed). For example, my son was feeding his fish and spilled the fish food on the table. I offered him items he would need for cleaning and was by his side, helping to hold the fish food he was cleaning up, but he was the one responsible for the process. Also, if something drops, don’t rush to pick it up for your little one, even if they are less than a year old. They are capable to bend their knees and pick it up by themselves. A favorite Montessori quote of mine is,  “Never help a child with a task at which they feel they can succeed”. Children can accomplish more than some adults think they can.

10.When we are getting ready to eat, the whole family participates. Little children make sure they have plates, spoons or forks, water, and napkins. After each meal older children carry their plates to the kitchen sink or set them in the dishwasher.
11.We do not sit on the kitchen table itself. A favorite Montessori principle is “Freedom within the limits”. I try to abide by this philosophy with my children. Yes, we can be silly, but it does not lead us to behaving out of control.
12.In our family, we always offer a choice or multiple options. I think it's unfair when we don’t have a choice to decide on. It’s like going to the store to buy a wedding dress and finding out the store has only one dress on sale. Bummer! The same goes for kids. They wake up and run to the refrigerator to have yogurt for breakfast, but they are told to eat warm oatmeal. So, when possible, I try to make my children in charge of some decisions. Some examples, I offer them two types of breakfast they can choose from or two different places we can go for a walk, two jackets they can wear, and what they would like to do first, and so on. If they refuse both options, I tell them, mom will then make a decision. By creating scenarios with multiple options, we show our children that their opinion matters and even though they are little human beings, their decisions can have an impact on their lives. Families, where parents make all the decisions for them, fail to allow their children to develop problem solving skills and later have challenges with being indecisive.
13.The most important of all rules is to always ensure everyone knows who the authority in the home is. Do not let your children at any age dictate you what needs to take place. With all the respect and love, our children need to know that their parents are the ones in charge of the family. It’s sad to observe how a little toddler dictates to his mom where to go, what to eat, and how to act. We can’t lose control over our little children. Otherwise, instead of us educating them, they will educate us.

Like any other parent, I have days or even weeks when everything goes smooth and easy. But there is always that day when things just don’t go the way we want to. What do I do? I drop everything and take my kids outside. Let them run and get fresh air. It always works wonders. When I have doubts about decisions I need to make regarding my children, I always ask myself, “How would I want to be treated?” And if the answer is, “Not the way I treat my child at this moment”, I change my strategy. But not my boundaries. Those remain the same.

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