How to set boundaries healthy and without breaking family harmony

  • 2015

It is an interesting article that talks about how through the daily rhythm and speaking to the child clearly, we avoid major conflicts such as screaming or hitting, which we should always avoid. He also speaks of "penances" and punishments, which would be nevertheless more appropriate to call consequences.

The limit is defined as " Real or imaginary line that separates two territories ". Although it seems strange, the limits generate freedom, because by specifying the prohibited they also establish everything that is allowed. They are absolutely necessary as they organize and create a reality, generate values, transmit ways of seeing life and living it. They are paradigms, anchors to reality that provide us with some stability and, from that, generate a sense of tranquility and well-being.

The establishment of limits consists - in most cases - of two stages:

1st stage: the transmission of the limit

To convey limits it is not enough to verbalize them. Limits also need some key features. They must be: predictable, unanimous, clear, firm, consistent, flexible and patiently applied.

The limit must be predictable. It is very important to establish routines and a family order so that the child knows what will happen if he transgresses the limit, and thus gets used to doing his homework. When routines are established, the biological clock becomes accustomed and the child stops getting angry when he does his homework. But if we are making upsets in his routine he will feel a "new beginning" every so often, which will put him in a bad mood. The child must be a “Swiss clock”, with well-kept and precise schedules for each activity: wake up, eat breakfast, go to school, have lunch, rest, snack, do homework, play ...

To be able to set limits easily and without emotional cost (without anger) an agreement between all educators is necessary, achieving a unanimous message. Adults (all those involved in the education of the child: parents, grandparents, babysitter, uncle, etc.) must generate agreements regarding limits and penances, that is, they must say the same and never disallow each other in front of the child. Children tend to be a mirror of the family situation, so that unanimity between adults (couple and other tutors) is key for them to be calm and respect limits.

There must be clarity in the message: tutors must be precise with what they ask. The child was not born knowing, so when we ask him to be calm, we will have to explain what it is to be calm and how he can achieve it. If we ask you to study, we will have to specify schedules, place, study items and so on. In order for the limit to be clear, parents, guardians and teachers must have things clear a priori. That is why it is good, every so often, to meditate and sit down to talk about beliefs, values, habits ... Anyway, what is right and what is wrong, to transmit it effectively. When there is a clear agreement and profound clarity on the part of educators about what is allowed and what is not, this is transmitted without problems to the child, who receives it without double or confusing messages. But if instead there are doubts, hesitations, constant disagreements or fear of losing the child's love, he will soon learn to take advantage of it (since boys are particularly sensitive when it comes to detecting doubts or lack of assurances and certainties for part of the parents), and thus the limit will hardly be established.

The limit must be set firmly : without shouting or anger but vehemently in the tone of voice and with a serious attitude. 93% of the message is corporal, and only 7% is symbolic (verbal). Therefore it is not enough to say the limit, it must be transmitted. Insecure parents teach their children, without realizing, that all limits are negotiable. Unlike the weak limit that is about to be turned around and only requires a few pushes and insistence for the child to win, firmness teaches that the limit is not negotiable. Clarity and firmness are manifested in the vehemence of the tone of voice, in a look, a gesture ... This is more than enough, and it makes unnecessary the endless persuasive explanations, the shout and even the blow.

Parents must have a behavior consistent with what they ask: it is about being themselves what they want to see in the child, because he learns much more from what he sees than from what he is told. It is necessary to teach by example. Children are "behavioral sponges" that absorb all behaviors: good and bad.

In addition, he recalled that patience gives time to gradually incorporate and respect the limits. In this process, as they discover the world and its rules, children necessarily make mistakes, because they were not born knowing. The assimilation of the limit rarely occurs instantaneously, so it is very important to be patient and calm. Children need safe and calm parents. Many, by setting the limit, do so by challenging the child beforehand, to screaming, angry, as if anticipating that they will not be respected, imparting the punishment before the child transgresses the limit. Do not! Be calm and serene - both firm and confident - when talking about the limit. We will see what to do when the child transgresses.

On the other hand, the limits must be flexible according to the passage of time: a limit for a 3-year-old child is not the same as the one we will put on a 7, 10 or older child . The limits must be modified as the child grows and gains autonomy. But if the limits are completely lacking in firmness and are modified from time to time, you will be teaching the child that, insisting, all the limits are negotiable and therefore he can do whatever he pleases.

After the transmission of the limit, some children need to verify that it actually exists, and they will transgress it to see what happens. Although it may seem odd, to finish setting the limit it is necessary for the boy to transgress it and experience the consequences. Only then will I learn that there is a limit.

2nd stage: transgression-penance

At this stage, although he does not always do so, the child tends to transgress to verify that there was a limit, and the guardians must make the consequences effective by applying the penance. This should simply be a removal of privileges, in general mild things, since what counts is its symbolic value (running out of dessert, without TV, without toys and things like that) never a blow, shout, insult, sarcasm or other hurtful attitudes. In addition, it must be related to the maturity of the child (do not apply penances when they cannot understand them).

On the other hand, I want to make it very clear that there will only be transgression if there was previously transmission of the limit. If, for example, you never explained that you should not immerse your mobile phone in the bathtub and the child does, you cannot put it in penance or challenge it since He didn't know he shouldn't do it; He did not transgress any limit, he just made a mistake.

As I said, children are not born knowing and necessarily have to make mistakes to learn . Therefore, as an adult it is your responsibility to anticipate possible accidents and errors preparing the environment, removing everything that may be the object of a voracious curiosity. Error is a necessary instance in learning, and if we challenge children when they are wrong, we generate a traumatic link with the error. In this way, later in his life the child will seek not to be mistaken, thus starting on the path of inaction, since the only ones who are not mistaken They are the ones who do nothing. We make mistakes. Never challenge the boys for their mistakes! If you challenge them when they are wrong, you will be teaching them not to accept themselves.

Now, if you already explained and warned of the consequences of not respecting the limit and knowing it transgresses it, you have to apply penance. As I said, it is a privilege removal, for example You run out of dessert, A day without TV, No mobile phone, No friends this afternoon Healthy and effective penance also has its characteristics. Let's see.

In the first place, it must be brief, that is, it should last a short time. It is no use if from your anger you say, for example: "I'm going to take away all the games for a whole week!" Everyone - and especially the child - knows that this will not happen. You will not be able to apply that penance, so your word loses credibility. So that both the child and the adult can tolerate the penance without lifting it, it has to be brief and be fulfilled strictly! In general, after two days without being able to do your leisure activities and being on top of you, you may want to lift your penance, and that doesn't help. You must always enforce from beginning to end the penances that you notice when you explain the limits. Then you will see that the child will believe and obey you, and you will not need to use pernicious interventions such as the scream, the squeak or repeat what you expect him to do to infinity.

Also the penance has to be clear, that is to say with specific times and places. The child must know well what caused his penance, as well as when it begins and ends and what it implies. The severity must be related to the transgression of the boy and not to the emotional state of the tutors.

Penance must be explainable. An unexplained penance of an adult does not make sense, it is necessary to explain it, but it is necessary to prevent the child from manipulating this characteristic in his favor. Many parents explain penances countless times and become entangled in them. When the boy asks tirelessly, "Why don't you let me play?" Why ?! ” in general it is not that I did not understand; What he is doing is insisting using rational strategies. It is a kind of "pulse" as it investigates the argument that displaces its tutors. I suggest explaining about three times; more of that is to pay attention to the negative aspect of the child (the complaint). In addition, it is necessary to clarify that not all information is always relevant or affordable to your understanding (detailed economic situation, couple, social issues, etc.). "Do not stay watering the cactus" is my advice.

Finally, the penance must be firm, that is, it cannot be removed until it has been accomplished. This item will be easy to accomplish if the penance is short. If it is too long, maybe at some point the adult will falter and lift the penance.

In the midst of penance the "Open sesame!" Will surely appear. These are phrases designed and studied by children to disarm parents. For example: "Mamita linda, dear, I understood, I swear I do not do more ... I love you." Many mothers or fathers are tender with these phrases and say "He is a divine, how am I going to punish him, " then they raise penance. Stay tuned, the boys are geniuses and some learn to "handle" their parents very well! Other times they use negative “open sesames”: “I don't love you”, “You are the worst mom in the world”, “I'm going to leave home”, “I'm going to report you to 102 for abuse”… In more extreme cases they use the spasm sob, self-induced vomiting, headbutt against the wall ... In these exceptional cases you have to consult the pediatrician to rule out any organic pathology.

Excerpt from the book: DISCOVERING MY EMOTIONS AND SKILLS, by Lucas. JJMalaisi


How to set boundaries healthy and without breaking family harmony

Next Article