Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend have a series of books about boundaries in all types of relationships. Their book Boundaries with Kids helps parents to teach self control and responsibility to our children.
Self Control for Adults and Children
A few months ago, I read “Boundaries in Marriage,” which is the best marriage book I’ve ever read. I plan to get my review up soon! Their basic method for bringing more peace into your own life and relationships is knowing “when to say yes and how to say no to take control of your life.”
The message is that we can not change other people through coercion or threats. At the same time, we do not have to tolerate being manipulated, ignored, or disrespected. We have freedom to say yes and no within all relationships.
Since their initial best-selling book “Boundaries” that outlined this theory, they have added to the mix Boundaries in Marriage, Dating, Parenting, and for Leaders.
How a Parent’s Self Control Leads to Better Decisions
Solving conflict and troublesome behavior without yelling or just giving up, “Boundaries with Children” provides real-life examples and actionable steps to take. A lot of it may sound like common sense, but parents know that when dealing with a three year old melting down in the middle of Target or a tween screaming about how unfair we are, it’s difficult to think before we speak. I’m sure every parent can find something to relate to and a method to improve their relationships with their children.
There is one specific piece of information that I’m using everyday to make life a little better for me and prepare the kids for a better, more responsible future. The idea is transferring responsibility. When things are going downhill, my voice gets louder and louder. Before I know it, I’m yelling. However, when I start to yell, my kid’s problem becomes an angry parent. I want the problem to be that he can’t find his shoes or she isn’t ready for bed. In the mind of a kid, once I start to yell, they forget about the original problem and just focus on doing what it take to get their parent to stop yelling.
I need to stop assuming responsibility for their problems. Even a three-year-old should know that her temper tantrum is her own responsibility. If I’m out of control, she will lose focus on what the actual problem is. A school-aged kid’s problem should be that they didn’t complete a homework assignment, not that they have a parent who is angry about it.
Once I start yelling, I’m taking ownership of the child’s problem. They don’t learn from the experience if they don’t know how to solve the problem in an effective way. Transferring responsibility back to the child is how they grow and learn.
Encouraging Responsibility Through Self Control
This has changed the way I think about dealing with the kid’s misbehaviors. As my heart rate and blood pressure increase or as the minutes tick away while a kid is still ambling around the house looking for a lost glove, I keep reminding myself of where the focus needs to remain. I never want the solution to be “get mom to stop losing her mind.” My anger distracts them from solving the actual problem. Saying nothing would be better than yelling. At least then they are forced to own the problem.
One great example of how I’ve put this in practice is with my seventh grader’s homework. He hates doing homework and puts it off as long as possible. I don’t know many kids who relish math worksheets and writing assignments, but the fact is, he has to complete the assignments.
No matter how crazy it makes me that he procrastinates all evening, screaming about it won’t help. Threatening him won’t help. If I keep threatening to take things away, I’m taking the responsibility on myself. I am assuming the responsibility of enforcing the consequences. I’m also changing the focus. The primary idea becomes the tablet that I’m threatening to take away indefinitely. I want the problem to remain that his school assignment is not completed.
So my new method (which is not easy and I’m not always great at) is to not yell and to just focus on the one behavior I want to change. Everything has to come back to that blank math homework.
Implementing Self Control For Kids
There are a so many good points in the book. For our family at this point, this was the biggest encouragement for me. I want to yell less anyway. We all know it’s not effective. This is the perfect reminder to stop. They need to learn to solve the right problem so we aren’t doing the same things day after day. I can’t yell if I want their focus to remain on the right thing.
For now, my one take-away from the book is putting the responsibility where it belongs. Like so many things in parenting, it’s part of a long slow process. But the more consistent I can be, the better my children will be at identifying the real problem and solving the root instead of the arbitrary reactions of others.
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