Imagine if there were no rules or laws around driving - no stop signs, no traffic lights, no lanes and no rules around which side you drive on.
It would be... pure chaos. Chaos feels unpredictable, overwhelming, and dangerous, so naturally we’d feel scared on the road if there were no driving laws or guidelines.
Children need structure. While rules can sometimes frustrate them, a home environment that has no predictability, consistency, and order can be anxiety provoking and feel scary.
As parents, it can be challenging to have consistent responses and stick to our rules. Our children sometimes push the boundaries, whine when we say no, and act out in anger when they don’t get their way.
The tricky part of giving in and not maintaining consistent boundaries is that they learn that these behaviors WORK. Sometimes pushing boundaries, whining, and acting out DOES get them what they want. And they’re smart (they’re your kids, after all!)- so they’ll continue to do what works!
And in these moments, we can feel overwhelmed - paralyzed and confused about whether to just give in so they stop, or feeling like we need to run out of the house to escape them - sometimes even yelling in frustration.
All of these reactions making it more difficult to navigate the situation in a constructive way, and we can get caught in a pattern, where this situation happens in different forms over and over again.
However, when we intentionally take time - in a calm state, when we’re not stressed and can think clearly - to reflect on what we want the rules and boundaries of our house to be, we too can feel more contained and ready to take on the tough situations. This means consciously deciding what’s ok with you, what’s not ok with you, and where the line is.
Having a clearer sense of your own boundaries as a parent frees you up to be more loving and gentle with your children as you hold that boundary. When you’re free of the inner turmoil of “Do I? Or don’t I?” you can use your energy to, instead, explain to your children why you’re saying no to their request and help them identify more constructive coping strategies for their disappointment, frustrations or feeling of rejection. The true meaning of “discipline,” after all, is to teach - and the most effective learning and growing happens when a child feels safe and supported.
And, overtime - with consistent yet supportive responses - they’ll learn that pushing the line, whining and tantruming, well, just doesn’t work, so that you can guide them towards a strategy that will work better.