Where do boundaries begin? In your home. Teaching your child to take care of their belongings and of yours will go a long way. For example:
- Eat in a highchair or at the table- not in the living room where food can stain your carpets and furniture
- Draw and color on the paper, not on toys or walls
- Sitting in a stroller when out and about (not being allowed to run freely)
- Sitting in a restaurant (this has to be taught slowly- by taking a fussy child outside instead of permitting them to run around in the restaurant- and when they are ready to come back inside and sit down you come back in to the restaurant. Make meals short the first 3 years and bring things to do like coloring, toys, drawing, books, etc.!)
- Clean up your toys when you are done (singing a goofy clean up song always helps)
- Making healthy decisions for snacks and meals is also a self-discipline boundary
- Asking permission to have a snack (this curbs instant gratification and dangerous tactics such as moving chairs and climbing up)
- Asking permission to paint/do crafts (this teaches messy activity boundaries)
Let’s look at two different scenarios:
- The first child says to herself, “I’m hungry”. She pulls a chair up to the closet, climbs up, grabs the cookies, runs into the living room and eats as many as she likes at the coffee table while she watches television.
- The need arose.
- She instantly went into motion.
- She got what she wanted and as much as she wanted.
- She gave no thought to what she was doing or the mess it created.
- She was instantly gratified.
- She did not have to show gratitude.
- Now, the second child. She says to herself, “I’m hungry”. She goes to a caregiver, pulls on her shirt and asks for some cookies. Caregiver says, “Just a minute, I’m changing your brother’s diaper”. Caregiver gets to the kitchen but drops the bomb; “You may have cookies for your special treat after dinner. How about a cut- up apple or a cheese stick for snack?” Caregiver may get a meltdown, and have to give a time- out (we will get there), but finally the child sits at the table or in her high chair and she is given a snack.
- The need arose.
- She had to ask.
- She had to wait until Caregiver could get her hands free.
- She was taught to make a healthy choice and actually didn’t get the snack she was hoping for even after the fit she threw.
- She had to sit and eat in the kitchen where you are supposed to eat if you don’t want ants or sticky goo on the couch.
- She was made to say thank you, which teaches gratitude.
Which scenario looks better to you?
Discretion will protect you
And understanding will guard you.