The Importance of Healthy Boundaries and Consistent Consequences
Setting healthy boundaries and implementing consequences is one of the most important things in parenting. Children of all ages, starting 2 to 18, will greatly benefit from healthy boundaries and clear expectations set by authority figures, such as parents, teachers, grandparents, or other relatives. The terrible twos are terrible because up to this age the world has pretty much revolved around them. This is when they really start to hear and understand the word “no”. It is also the age when they begin to understand the power of temper tantrums. They become aware that mom and dad get uncomfortable when they have tantrums and they will use that to their benefit. It is at this early age that parents either begin teaching their children that tantrums are going to get them what they want or not.
When a child is having a tantrum, they are feeling the psychological pain of not getting what they want when they want it. It is important to understand that this psychological pain is a very healthy thing for the child to experience. It helps them to learn that they cannot always have what they want when they want it. In other words, it allows them to grow and mature and is essential for the child’s development. This applies to 2-year olds all the way up to 18-year olds.
When parents have clear boundaries and implement consequences consistently they begin to earn their children’s trust. The more a child trusts that their parents mean what they say, the fewer tantrums and arguments there will be. The sole reason children (age 2 to 18) have tantrums or argue, is because they believe that their parents will eventually give in and not follow through with consequences. For example, when you tell your 10-year old that, due to his poor grades, there will be no video games until his homework is completed, you can expect that he will exhibit a significant amount of anger and frustration toward you. After all, he has never had to do this before, so why should he trust that you are really going to follow through with this new rule. However, when parents have a long history of sticking to their guns when new rules are made, a 10-year old child will already know that arguing is waste of time and will put up a much smaller fight, if not no fight at all.
Making boundaries clear and upholding them by implementing consequences for good and bad behavior, creates a safe and secure environment for children. Once your child learns that arguing will not get them what they want, they will begin spending that time and energy improving their own behavior, instead of trying to change yours. Having clear boundaries and effective consequences is not only essential in creating well-adjusted and mature children, it also makes the family, as a whole, a happier unit.
Erick Godel, MFT
Below are 2 very helpful parenting books. They are short, to the point, and really help parents understand why their kids act the way they do.