The chapter title that I am working through in Boundaries this week is “Kids need parents with boundaries”. The author's point is that though by nature we resist rules and limitations, from birth even, we need them. While a child's actions are that child's responsibility the parents teach the child what is permissible and what is not. If I ask my daughter to take the garbage out and then do not hold her responsible for the chore, I am actually teaching her that it is her choice to do what I ask or not- that she does actually have to obey me.
The author's state early in the chapter “You need to interpret a child's behavior as a response to your own.” Ouch. Does that mean that when she does not take the garbage out it is truly my issue not hers? Yes, she is still responsible to obey. But did I say it like I meant it? Did my words and my tone of voice match? Am I sending mixed messages?
Lately, many changes having been occurring at my house. The changes are for the better, but they are mostly physical changes. I have been down sizing which is diminishing the physical chaos in the home. Now it is time for me to examine the emotional chaos. This is a less tangible thing to look at. How do I measure my life? How do I measure my parenting?
The authors remind us that a student can only learn to the level of the teacher. It is not possible for me to teach my children how to be better than me. They can learn how to be better than me- but not from me. The statement made is, “Children will mature to the level the parent structures them, and no higher.” So if I am not happy with the behaviors exhibited is the fault of my children who are displaying inappropriate choices, or my fault for teaches them that those choices were appropriate to begin with?
The challenge is to not take the responsibility of my children's choices from them but to learn how to set clear boundaries and then hold them responsible. I have taught my children how to take physical care of a household. In other words they know how to do dishes, to clean up their rooms, to vacuum, to sort and wash laundry and clean bathrooms. What I have not taught them is respect and how to value another person. My mother taught me through fear and I do not want to parent that way. She also was not consistent in her expectations and punishments- so when I did something wrong I may or may not get punished for it and if I did, the punishment may or may not have had a direct correlation with the original misbehavior. \
I need to figure out what it is I am wanting my children to learn, what characteristics I am trying to teach. Then I need to set clear boundaries and hold to them. When correct behavior is displayed I need to bless and praise for that- everyday. When incorrect behavior is displayed I need to follow through with consequences that have a direct correlation to the behavior. For example, my youngest daughter has the job of loading the dishwasher. Often she loads it without cleaning off the dishes first so that any debris on the dishes simply gets spread around the load and all the dishes end up dirty- after it has run and they should be clean. A direct consequence could be that it is now her job to check the dishwasher when it is done and she has to judge whether they got clean or not. If not then she gets to immediately deal with the dirty load and reclean/rerun it. Over this next week I need to seriously think about each one of my children: what are their strengths an their weaknesses. What am I doing to build them up. What is it about each one's behavior that I would like to improve? How can I help them in that area? Am I being inconsistent in that area, if so how? What can I do to change me so that I am an example to them?