Building Fences: Raising Kids With Boundaries
CASE STUDY 1
During nap time at the day care center, one-year-old Cameron hung onto the crib’s rails, crying to be picked up. A caregiver took him out of the crib and held him until he calmed down. When he was home for nap time during the weekend, Cameron would do the same thing. He would cry and stand up in his crib. His mother ignored him, believing he needed to learn that nap time was for sleeping and that crying would not result in him being picked up. After twenty minutes, he went to sleep.
Back at the day care center, nap time came around and Cameron stood up and cried to be picked up. Another caregiver came along and spoke sternly to Cameron, telling him to “lay down.” Cameron was confused. He couldn’t remember who expected what.
|It is imperative that expectations are consistent between each caregiver. A child will be confused until he/she works out who expects what type of behavior. This can lead to insecurity and may teach him to manipulate the different parties.|
|It is important that boundaries and expectations are carefully explained, and even repeated over and over, until the child understands and complies.|
|It is important that caregivers respond consistently, so that learning takes place quickly and without confusion. A team talk between caregivers will assist the child greatly in learning what his boundaries are.|
CASE STUDY 2
Renovations were being done at a middle school downtown. The tall fences that surrounded the playing area were taken down in preparation for replacement the following week. Typically, the kids would play right out to the fence line, but after the fence was taken down, the kids stayed in the central part of the play area and would not venture within twenty feet of the old boundary.
|Children feel safe when they know exactly what is expected of them and where the boundaries are.|
|Children will always push boundaries. It is human nature. The important thing is to be consistent with consequences when boundaries are crossed.|
CASE STUDY 3
Fifteen-year-old Megan was an only child. Her mother had had a number of miscarriages prior to her birth and was forty-three years old when Megan was born. Her father was always busy and not really a part of her life. Her mother had been a very objective foster parent to other children previously, but with Megan, somehow all that common sense flew out the window.
When Megan reached her teens, she said to her mother, “I think I want to try smoking pot.” Instead of her mother explaining the dangers and firmly establishing a boundary, she mused, “Well, maybe I will try it, too.” Another day, Megan told her mother she was drinking alcohol and smoking cigarettes. Instead of explaining that these activities become habitual and would harm her body, Megan’s mother allowed her to continue.
What happened to the objective parent figure Megan’s mother had once been? Megan was pushing every boundary she could, and sadly, discovering there were none.