~ 31 Days of Parenting Teens & Tweens, Day 9 ~
In writing my 31 Days of Parenting Teens and Tweens, I've talked to other parents about what they'd advise if they were writing in my place. My sister, whose two daughters, 18 and 19, are six shades of awesome, said this–
"Set boundaries. They're gonna push, they will resist, but deep down they want you to set limits."
There's not a tween or teenager in the world who would agree with her…until 10-15 years down the road.
Jim Cunningham recounts the results of a study I heard about ages ago–
Children at recess on a school playground bordered by fences, played freely and took full advantage of the entire space up to the fences themselves; on another day when the fences were removed, they stuck together at the playground's center, too anxious to venture toward the unmarked borders.
They wanted to know their limits in order to play to their full potential.
Ironic as it seems, I am not contradicting the assertions made in my recent post, "Prohibitions, liberty and consequences," where I encouraged you to extend freedom to your tweens and teens where ever possible.
It's the difference between fences and cages–
- Fences set boundaries and protect what's within them; they keep intruders out.
- Cages imprison; they're intended to prevent excape from what lives inside.
Fences are freedom within boundaries.
Children need to not just know your expectations, they need to understand them.
They will argue with you.
They will say things like "everyone else gets to go" or "you're the only parent who won't let me _______." Tweens and teens are masters at manipulating with guilt, or at least trying to.
Your Very Hard Job as a parent is to sift through the noise and set reasonable limits; limits that might inconvenience and initially frustrate your child but won't demoralize and exasperate him.
Rebellion is your teen begging for you to clarify limits. While it feels the opposite, you need to realize and hold onto to the truth that boundaries are an indicator of love to your children.
Let love be your guide in setting boundaries; not a need to control, or to replicate how you were raised, or even what other parents are doing. In setting boundaries–
- Be consistent with your faith and moral convictions.
- Invite your child's feedback. Listen and evaluate the merit of their response. Be open and adaptable to change if they've layed out a credible, reasonable case for their position.
- Follow through with consequences when boundaries are crossed. Consistently.
(Am I the only one, or is consistency one of the most difficult goals of parenting?)
Curfews, social activities, rules when your teen start driving, are some of the places boundaries are necessary. And they're all places your children will push back once you establish limits.
But at least they'll know you love them.
Your turn: Have you considered boundary-setting as an expression of parental love? If not, does considering that perspective change how you wish to construct limits for your children? How are your tweens or teens challenging you lately?
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I definitely wanted boundaries as a teen (not that I would have ever admitted it at the time). I failed gym class and my parents didn’t even care. I know it was just gym and it was only because I didn’t bring my swimsuit for the week or two that we swam as part of the class, but the fact that they weren’t even the least bit disappointed really bothered me. I would also stay out way past curfew and they didn’t always punish me. Oh, I pushed every boundary they gave me and half the time I got away with it.
I will definitely be doing things a bit differently. I am good at being consistent on important things. My sisters tell me I am way too hard on my kids. Sometimes I think maybe I am, but then when I see how good my kids are compared to theirs I realize that maybe I am not.
The feedback from my children is the hardest thing for me. I need to be better about that one!
Laura, you seem to be doing a great job. While I DO think there’s the possibility of being too strict, most people don’t come close. And the “proof is in the pudding” as far as I’m concerned….
I try so hard to engage my children in conversation, not lecture. When they’re involved in the communication it’s much more effective…. But it DOES take practice :).