• Brandon Joffe, LCSW

1st lesson in boundaries!

There are countless books written about setting boundaries in parenting. For every book there is a slightly different teaching and understanding. For some reason, most books teach boundaries as if they are the same as reward and punishment (token economy). It is also often confused with what you want or hope for, or your expectations. These are definitely small aspects of parenting, but not necessarily boundaries.

There are some fundamental components that even the experts often overlook when teaching boundaries. First off boundaries are protective in nature. They are not meant to necessarily change your child’s tendencies or misbehavior, although admittedly when it works out this way it is awesome. When the spirit of a boundary is to change someone else it is too easy to slip into punishment and reward, which if you are honest, really only works short term (2 weeks to at most 2 months). Second boundaries have to be concrete. Just because it is obvious to you doesn’t mean it is obvious. For example: “you better respect me” is much different than saying do not yell, cuss, or put me down while speaking to me. I know it seems obvious, but trust me the more concrete the more powerful the boundaries become. All boundaries must have a follow through which you control completely and is relevant to whatever it is you are protecting. “If you disrespect me I am going to take your phone away” is not a boundary. It is a frivolous punishment that is totally irrelevant, overused, and not effective in the long run. If you refuse to communicate with, do favors for, or interact with someone who is cussing, yelling, or putting you down, in the long run the only way for that person to interact with you or get your attention or get favors from you will be by changing the behavior. And…if they don’t, that is a bummer but at least you have removed yourself from the abuse, protected yourself, and ensured that your sanity stays in tact event though the situation is difficult.

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