Boundaries Without Borders

Schewitz ThumbnailGuest blogger Kim Schewitz is a marketing consultant, writer and mother of two.

“Wake up, Lazy Bones,” the cheerful 5-year-old alarm sings at 6am.

You pry your lashes from their ferocious grip and groan internally (you think) that your few hours of respite are already over. You fumble around in your “How-To-Be-A-Good-Example-Kit,” find your “What-A-Great-Way-To-Start-The-Day-Smile,” paste it on, if a little askew and agree to ten minutes of TV time.

An hour later, you exchange a few more morning pleasantries and leave the children upstairs to get dressed, praising yourself for providing the autonomy necessary to raise resilient, independent children. You prepare whatever you can for breakfast (milk) and await the imminent arrival of the neatly dressed, brushed and preened children to place their breakfast order. You go upstairs to inspect their progress and are crestfallen to find none.“Kids, why don’t you tell me what you want for breakfast and I’ll have it ready for you by the time you get dressed.”

“I’m not getting dressed today. I’m having a pyjama day.”

“A pyjama day – you’re so funny. What would you like for breakfast?”

The question evaporates into the foggy air polluting Gotham City.

“Breakfast you guys – what would you like?”

“You be the bad guy. No wait, I’ll be the bad guy. You have to get me. But don’t start yet. Wait for me to make my fort…”

“ENOUGH! Tell me what you want for breakfast right now or I’m not making breakfast ever again and you can go to school hungry and there’ll be no TV for a week and no computer for a month – in fact I think we should sell the computer!”

Like a novice ice skater we lurch and swing unexpectedly between permissiveness and punitiveness. Often the things that make us snap are not the battles we would choose to fight but rather the straws that break the camel’s back. As a result the consequence doesn’t fit the crime but tends to be an overreaction. We forget the delicate balance required to glide through the day.

In an attempt to grow with the “self-esteem movement” we have put much of yesteryear’s discipline (you know the “Because I said so” kind?) on the backburner and thrown the proverbial baby out with the bathwater. We have created boundaries without borders – they appear and vanish; stretch and shrink. In fact we don’t really know where they are at all…and nor do our children.

Simi Yellen, a parenting teacher in L.A. says that raising children is like growing tomatoes. We need the soil to be a nurturing environment filled with the nutrients of unconditional love. We need to water them with positive attention and make sure they have access to enough sunlight (success which is specific to their nature) to shine and grow. But we also have to provide them with a secure trellis so that they can grow straight. The trellis is the backdrop of discipline and respect.

Sometimes we’re afraid enforcing boundaries will damage our relationship with our children. On the contrary: healthy boundaries are a gift, which provide security and social tools required for any healthy, respectful relationship. Setting boundaries also clues us in on our internal limits so we don’t explode or burn out. It’s a win-win. All it takes to find our grace is a little bit of balance and permission to fall. And for those who still feel unsteady and need a guiding hand, Jennifer Kolari’s book, Connected Parenting walks you through step by step how to create and enforce boundaries and limits whilst maintaining a loving, positive and connected relationship with your children.

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Please remember that the advice given on this blog is not meant to replace medical advice or the direct advice of a mental health care professional.
"Connected Parenting advises us not just how to parent, but—far more important—who to be as parents. The therapeutic methods suggested by Jennifer Kolari are based not on simple-minded behavioural solutions, but on building warm, nurturing relationships with our children, with insight and compassion not only for their little flaws, but also for our own larger ones."
—Gabor Maté, M.D.

"A must read for parents, educators, and any other adults who want to connect in a deeply caring and positive way with the children in their lives."
—Barbara Coloroso