Delivering Discipline - Testing Boundaries
Module three : Lesson five
Let's talk about boundaries. Boundaries is that fine line between getting my needs met and supporting others. Now, children are known for pressing those buttons and testing those boundaries. That is a natural part of their development. We explored earlier how children go through test driving their autonomy, defining their identity, and exploring their capability. Those three things more often than not appear as problem behavior, disruptive, loud, difficult, challenging behaviors that very commonly are testing our boundaries as well. I want to encourage you how to follow through, how to know that you're being firm, but not being too harsh, but you're also not being overly permissive.
Sometimes it can be a bit of a challenge finding that balance. What I encourage parents to do, if you feel like your child is pushing those buttons consistently, if you feel like your child is nagging you all the time trying to see if you're going to give in today ... And remember, that nagging returns when it's effective. If children realize that the more often I ask this question, I get different answers, I get different responses every time ... It might be you saying, "Okay, fine. I give in." It might be you complaining to somebody else. "Listen, he's nagging again." It might be you returning and nagging your child back. Either way, if they find that every time they go to you there's a new response, then they're going to continue to troubleshoot until they find the answer that they want. That's what nagging is, and that is what reinforces nagging if we're not careful.
Rather than that, I want you to learn how to respect your own boundaries and to show children how to respect your boundaries as well. We do this through incorporating firm, but gentle follow-through. There's a few ways that you can use follow-through effectively. The first way is really to be as boring as possible. What I mean by that is rather than rolling your eyes, or huffing and puffing, or letting out a big sigh, or complaining to someone, or adjusting your answer, or overexplaining things, rather than that, I want you to be so boring that your child gives up, that they stop pushing those buttons because their response is not changing.
Children are going to continue to test things until they find a definitive answer. They might even reexplore things that they haven't done in a long time just to see if the answer has changed. Kids are really clever that way. And the brain is always learning and exploring new ways to get its needs met. Once we find a way to be clear and concise and to follow through, then children will pushing those boundaries in those ways and we'll be able to just regulate a lot easier. Things become a lot smoother and a lot easier when children realize that nagging is no longer effective.
Being boring might look like monitoring some of your responses, but it also looks like incorporating maybe a one-liner, maybe saying the same sentence over and over again until your child is so tired of hearing it. It might be something like, "I've already answered that. I've already answered that. I've already answered that." Hear how boring that is? So you're going to stop asking the exact same question if you've already answered that and if you stay consistent with that one-liner.
Pairing that one sentence, I've already answered that, with I'm no longer rolling my eyes, I am just sitting here smiling, I'm not affected by the nagging, I'm not giving into the nagging, this is a wonderful way to demonstrate those clear boundaries. It'll also help you maintain your calm and your cool when so often nagging becomes very triggering for us and it really gets under our skin quickly.
That's what I want you to try. To demonstrate clear boundaries, I want you to become as boring as possible, to think of a one go-to sentence that you can use that is gentle, that is clear, that your child can easily understand no longer than four words, and that's it. I want you to focus on keeping this as simple and as boring as possible in order to demonstrate those clear boundaries. What you're going to find is that your child, over time and consistency, will begin to respect those boundaries. Hopefully this can lead you into more meaningful conversations instead.