A reader recently shared some of her thoughts and inquiries around her definition of boundaries as she was taught them and how she has shifted her perspective since reading and learning more about conscious parenting. I offered her some further insights below in case you find them to be mutually helpful as they have been on my own parenting journey with my 4.5 year old daughter.
Boundaries- My definition of boundaries has been one of control and punishment for not complying (part of what has gotten me into this problem now-I believe). This is what I and my husband grew up with, it was what I learned in me education classes and in all the parenting books I have read. Now I feel like I have gone to the opposite extreme. I no longer use consequences and am trying to stop controlling everything but then what do I do when I ask my child to do his chores and he replies, “No, I don’t feel like it and you cannot tell me what to do.” This is another place where I feel stuck. I will sometimes say, “I see you are doing something you really enjoy. I understand it is hard to stop. Dinner is ready and it is your turn to set the table. I will put a timer for 5 minutes and I need you to stop and set the table when it goes off.” or I may say, “Come on, I will help you and we can do it together.” Sometimes it works others it will just trigger him. Such as no TV or video games on school nights is not negotiable or at 7:30 pm we all start winding down for bedtime. But besides those two I have not been able to figure out how to set further boundaries and especially during times of unconsciousness.
1. It’s great that you have come to see the way you and your husband were creating boundaries was based around your own upbringing and when they do not come from a disciplinary / egoic perspective. Instead setting and creating healthy boundaries (both for yourself and children / family) will be a very important element to building upon healthy relationships with your children (taking the ego out of the picture), staying connected and in your own authentic being of knowing your life-affirming agenda around those boundaries, communicating them to your children, modeling those boundaries yourself as an example for your children to see. So you said that you have gone the extreme opposite from the way you were creating boundaries (based on punishment and non-compliance) to trying to stop controlling everything etc.
First thing to keep in mind on your conscious parenting journey is that your children are not going to shift so extremely to your new ways just because you have become more aware. They are not used to the new mindset you are carrying, they are still operating from their false-sense of self / ego (protective shell) that has been built around them up through this point. Much of your transition into conscious parenting and incorporating a new understanding around boundaries is going to require you (and your husband) to clearly communicate, demonstrate, follow-up through, be accountable and hold your children accountable for things that maybe you have not done in the past. It is going to feel uncomfortable and uneasy. That is normal and part of your own egoic layers peeling off. So you are going to find yourself questioning your new ways, seeking validation from your children indirectly and spouse to give you the feeling that you are doing it right. When this happens, stay attuned to those feelings, talk yourself through them (in that moment), ask if what you are conveying to your children around those new (conscious minded) boundaries you are coming from your egoic self or your essence self?
Then when you child says, “No, I don’t feel like it and you cannot tell me what to do” you need to stand firm in your position (from your essence not your ego). Expect push back and resistance and conflict — this is normal for him (her) because they have been so conditioned to protect themselves (through their egoic shell) from the past ways in which boundaries have been defined to them (e.g. punishment). The fact that you feel stuck is sending an unwavering energy to your child(ren) that you are not definitive in your own being and they will use that moment of vulnerability to their advantage.
Here are some suggestions to ease into those boundaries:
1. Give advance warning when you are needing them to be part of something (like setting the table, getting ready for dinner, leaving for an event, etc). If you say “X” will be ready in 10 minutes, then you need to stay committed to following back up with them in 10 minutes so they see through it on their end. Don’t yell or talk from another room but instead – engage face to face, eye-to-eye if you need to get their attention and have them understand your limit / boundary.
2. Depending on the issue, you can certainly say something like you mentioned “I see you are doing something you really enjoy. I understand it is hard to stop. However dinner is ready in X minutes and I will need you to wash your hands before coming to the table”
3. Finding a point of flexibility will be something you will need to determine based on your situation, boundary and your child’s request … “mom can I have 5 more minutes”. It’s up to you if you want to accommodate those 5 minutes (say he / she are doing something they are really enjoying) OR if you don’t. Stay in communication and connection with them along the way. Let them see you are amenable at times and that you value and appreciate their cooperation in return.
4. The other thing to keep in mind when a child continually pushes back, defies and does not want to cooperate – these are tell-tale signs of disconnection from them to you. If they don’t want to partake in any family gatherings (dinner, events, etc) … they are showing you they don’t feel connected. This is a wake-up opportunity to re-establish communication, connection and compassion that has been lost and needs further attention and nurturing on both parts.
5. Dr. Shefali helps us to better understand the meaning of consequences through them being “natural consequences” to the matter at hand – not a punishment. Say your child refuses to come to dinner. You have asked once and twice at the most. Then you let him / her know that if you choose not to eat when we are having our family time / dinner, you will not be getting dinner later on. Stay firm and follow-through. Even if they call you names and say you are the worse mom ever. If you know that your boundary is non-negotiable and is a life-affirming agenda (coming from a place that serves their well being and not your ego or theirs) you create that condition. Once they see you staying consistent (and not caught up in the emotional drama, power-struggle etc) of their ego roaring at you, they will come to see and better understand how you are betting regarding and establishing boundaries from a conscious minded perspective and no longer from that of ego / punishment.
Here is Dr. Shefali’s latest blog link for further reference: https://drshefali.com/are-punishments-and-consequences-different/