In our culture, motherhood is equated with selflessness and self-sacrifice – at all times, no matter what. In conversations I have with others, it often seems like ‘boundary’ is a dirty word and an even dirtier concept. Boundaries with our kids and in our families are antithetical to the idea of motherhood for many moms. If we are expected to sacrifice our preferences, desires, needs for the preferences, desires, needs of our children at all times that can lead to lax boundaries, or no boundaries at all with our children.
I reject the idea that I always need to prioritize my children’s wants/needs over mine. When I am not boundaried, I feel like I’m disrespecting myself and not attending to the fact that I am raising adults who need to learn how to create and nurture healthy relationships with other humans. And these kids/teens/adults of mine will also need to learn how to set and maintain their own boundaries. I think it’s important for my kids to know that they aren’t the center of my universe (even though they actually are, know what I mean?).
Boundaries are actually my favorite parenting tool
I find that when I have loose boundaries with my kids, I am more irritable, prone to snap at them, and feel more feelings of resentment and disconnection in my relationships with them. When I notice these cues, I have learned that I need to check in with myself and my boundaries. Usually after a bit of reflection I find that they are pushing me because I’m allowing them to and I need to up my parenting game. Instead of allowing my frustration with their behavior to further disconnect me from them, when I set or maintain the boundary the end result is that it preserves our relationship. Even if they don’t like the boundary.
Trust me – this isn’t to say that I don’t experience frustration with my kids, or that I always set/maintain boundaries perfectly. I make plenty of mistakes and absolutely do my fair share of yelling. I have just learned that I have more control over how I respond to their behavior than I actually do over their behavior, and that feels empowering to me when so much of parenting brings on feelings of powerlessness.
Boundaries in small ways on all the days
The opportunities for boundary setting presents itself in the smallest of ways:
- Decisions I make about allowing/not allowing my kids to touch me/be close to my body
- My capacity for tolerating excessive talking, loud and boisterous shrieking/hooting/hollering (helllooooo sensory overload!)
- Decisions I make about spending time outside of my family/away from my children
- How I choose to respond when they talk to me in rude/snotty tones
- Requesting that they wait to speak and not interrupt when others are talking
- Saying no
- Making decisions based on an ever-changing formula that takes the needs of the entire family into consideration
- Choosing to disengage when asked the same question over and over again because I have already answered it
- Enforcing consequences with consistency
- Choosing to have different expectations for what’s allowed/not allowed based on age/personality traits
- ie I can say adult words around my kids and this doesn’t mean it’s okay for them to say adult words
- I may allow my daughter more freedom/privileges because of her age and how responsible she is, so it’s very possible that I say yes to her and no to my other kids for the exact same request
My boundaries with my kids has evolved over time based on their age and development, personalities/needs, as well as my own needs and capacity. It’s a constant work in progress, but I believe that my ability to set limits, say no, and to be clear with my kids about what is and what isn’t okay for me is crucial in creating a healthy, happy, and individualized relationship with each of my kiddos.
If you’re looking for more resources to learn how to implement boundaries with your sweet little babes, here are some of my favorites:
@biglittlefeelings on IG
@drbeckyatgoodinside on IG
Janet Lansbury – www.janetlansbury.com
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