Another VERY important concept with 0-5 is instilling boundaries. Boundaries for what? For EVERYTHING. Yes, that’s right. It’s time consuming on the front end, but a blessing when they become preteens and teens. It’s better to get the ‘instant gratification monster’ under control here while the parent has all the control. Later on, you’ll have outside forces: friends, school, activities, sports- all different channels where your child will be making decisions. BUT- right now is the sweet spot for teaching self-discipline. If you put in the time here- you’ll have to discipline less in the later years. Teaching a child to have SELF discipline means that a parent will have to discipline the “SELF-ish” a lot less.
Where does 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.Proverbs 2:11
Dealing with disappointment is a daily task: the light turned red, the line is long, we didn’t get our shipment, she never called me back, and on and on. We may feel a little frustrated, but we must cope and move on. You’re actually teaching your child to do the same utilizing everyday scenarios as they grow.
Setting boundaries is not always the easiest thing to do. In fact, it’s more time consuming than just allowing a child to do it themselves. And when you add an audience to it – such as a child who wants to get out of their stroller at the mall or out of their cart at the grocery store- you will be more tempted to cave. Stay strong. Cut your shopping down to the necessities and your child will learn that they will not get their way no matter what kind of tantrum they throw.
In the long run, you’ll be doing less damage control at other people’s houses, church, parties and holidays when your children have ground rules at home. If a child has rules, they learn to eventually apply them to every environment.
Some simple rules:
- Clean as we go.
- Clean up before bed.
- Put shoes away, clothes in hamper.
- Do chores every morning before school.
- No running in the house (take it outside).
- Draw, color, paint on paper- not on walls.
- Eat in the kitchen.
- Don’t touch things that do not belong to you.
- Trucks are to be pushed on wood floors, tile floors and even carpet; they do not roll on walls that leave marks for someone too clean.
- 10. Use inside voices when we are inside.
- 11. Couches and chairs are for bottoms, not for feet.
- 12. Tables are for objects, not for bottoms.
Listen to advice and accept instruction and in the end you will be wise.Proverbs 19:20
Taking care of preteens and teens is a whole different challenge! Let’s get into that next chapter!
Word to the Wise:
Having a handle on the impressionable years (before preteen/teen), will go a long way in the teen years. It’s beneficial for parents to bond in the beginning that fosters a trust and relationship to carry you through the teen years.
Listen my sons, to a father’s instruction; pay attention and gain understanding. I give you sound learning, so do not forsake my teaching. When I was a boy in my father’s house, still tender, and an only child of my mother, he taught me and said, “Lay hold of these words with all your heart; keep my commands and you will live. Get wisdom, get understanding; do not forget my words or swerve from them. Do not forsake wisdom, and she will protect you; love her, and she will watch over you. Wisdom is supreme; therefore get wisdom. Thought it cost all you have, get understanding. Esteem her, and she will exalt you; embrace her and she will honor you. She will set a garland of grace on your head and present you with a crown of splendor.”Proverbs 4:1-9