One of the hardest things in parenting is setting boundaries. Having boundaries is so important, because your child won’t know how to act unless there are regulations and expectations in place. The first thing you need to do is to set boundaries that are appropriate to your child’s’ situation. Unfortunately, there is no “one size fits all” when it comes to children and parenting. Even what worked with one of your children won’t work with another. You have to remain fair and consistent, while determining your child’s needs. Decide what boundaries should be in place for your child, and what the consequences for breaking these boundaries should be. It can be helpful to setup a consequence that is as close to a “natural consequence” as possible. This prepares your child for the kind of situations they’ll be facing later in life. For example, if they don’t do their homework and they get an F, a suitable consequence may be that they are unable to do certain social activities because they need more time to study.
Make sure that you and your partner are on the same page. In order to be effective, you need to be consistent.
Make sure that your boundaries are fair, and that they are set with love. Tell your child upfront what you want them to do, instead of constantly telling them the things that they are doing wrong. Focusing on the negatives won’t help them. It can also be very helpful to write down these expectations with your child, so that everything is clear. This will eliminate “he said, she said” later on. This doesn’t need to be a contract, but just a clear understanding. Having it in writing will also help your child feel responsible for their actions, because these boundaries are clear and apparent to them.
Setting boundaries doesn’t help at all if you don’t follow through. You wouldn’t want to threaten consequences to your child and then not follow through, because then you’re just threatening them. If they violate the rules that you set out with them, and they were aware of what the consequences would be, you need to follow through without hesitation. You may feel mean, setting restrictions, but if you fail to follow through, your child will lose respect for you and feel that you have no authority over her.
Rules are a natural part of life, within the family and later in life, when they’re living on their own. It’s vital to their success as an adult that they have rules and regulations in the home. You want to maintain a loving, positive, and close relationship with your child, but you also need to have a clear role as a parent, not as a friend.
Successful parenting can be difficult, and it’s a balance. You won’t be able to solve all of your child’s issues, but it’s never too late to reroute and set up reasonable expectations for the rest of their life.