Parenting Tweens and Teens — Part 3: Creating Effective Boundaries with Guidance
Imagine that your teen or tween is struggling with some kind of boundary. Maybe it’s talking to their siblings unkindly, excessive screentime, or frequently procrastinating doing homework. It can become a real struggle, so how do you influence and guide them to get back on track?
There are three, important parenting principles that will help you accomplish this:
1. Love our kids
2. Connect with them
3. Guide them with confidence
While implementing these principles keep in mind that each situation is different, each child is unique, and every issue may involve specific remedies to consider. Seek answers and keep trying, because through your love for them will invariably find a way.
Balancing Boundaries and Connection is Critical
Parenting can be compared to building a house. Love is the foundation and the two parts of the framework are an emotional connection and boundary guidance.
Connection and boundaries are companions and must work together to be effective. Balancing them is essential for optimal parenting because without the other, emotional connection can lead to indulgence and boundaries can lead to a strained parent-child relationship.
Here are some practices to prove guidance while setting boundaries:
1. See yourself as a guide, not an enforcer.
As our children transition from tweens to teens, it’s important to maintain boundaries while gradually helping them learn how to direct themselves. This can be a very fine line that can shift depending on the progress the child is making. During challenging situations, sometimes we can become too rigid and caught up in the heat of the moment. So instead, see yourself as a guide instead of an enforcer. Your child will respond much better if they feel they’re being guided and loved, rather than forced to do something.
2. Have a clear vision of direction.
It’s critical that you, your partner, and your teen are on the same page. Take the time to talk with them about why a particular boundary is important, ask for their ideas on how they can be successful by following up, and express your confidence in their ability to follow through.
3. Think of progress in steps.
Competence leads to confidence and trust. If your child is struggling with a task, it may be helpful to break the task into smaller parts. As they get more competent with each step, it allows us to trust that they are ready to make responsible choices.
4. Help build internal motivation.
Relax because there is plenty of time to build your child’s internal motivation and take gradual stages so they can learn responsibility as they gain more independence. They will undoubtedly make mistakes so keep them motivated by frequently pointing out their successes rather than what they did wrong.
5. Focus on fewer goals and boundaries, and follow-up consistently.
Change can be hard and overwhelming for all of us. If we are trying to help our kids change too many behaviors at once, it will not only make it hard for them, but also harder for us to follow up. Make it easier on your child and yourself by helping them improve on one to three boundaries at a time. Once they’re successful at those and they become habits, feel free to gradually add more boundaries. Make sure to follow up because without it all your effort may be wasted.
6. Be okay with resistance.
Sometimes we want our kids to like doing chores, homework, and other tasks because it makes it easier for us. But this can be self-serving at best, and at worst it can open you up to manipulation. For instance, don’t back off requesting your child do their chores because they don’t want to. Don’t stop asking them to stay on top of their homework because you’re afraid they won’t be successful at it. Taking the easy road because of their resistance can be tempting, but stay the course. Accept that you’ll be unpopular at times as you prod them. They need your guidance to show they’re capable of pushing through challenges.
Enjoy your kids and don’t take yourself too seriously. As you practice setting boundaries, make sure to be okay with your and their inevitable mistakes. Remember creating a healthy parent-child relationship is founded on three principles: love, connection, and boundaries. All three must work together to be effective.