Healthy Boundaries and Doormat Avoidance

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Healthy boundaries- what are they? How does one go about creating and enforcing them without offending? Are the rules different when referencing clingy children?

These questions are stoking the fires of my brain cells and keeping me awake at night. Primarily because for most people, boundary setting involves putting physical space and time between oneself and the person or people with whom the boundary is desired. However, my current environment, living with my sister and her family, creates a significant barrier to achieving this.

Also, within the realm of child relations, being an aunt differs significantly from being a parent. I am, to a large extent, a novelty around these parts. My nieces and nephew test their boundaries because I am a relatively new staple in their lives. They are gauging my reactions and learning my patterns, much as I am doing with each of them. While this is a learning process for us all, because I have never spent significant time around children, nor do I hold a graduate degree in child psychology, I find myself merely guessing at their motives and googling far more often than I care to admit.

Children defy all logic. They are fickle, fleeting and often impossible. A moment of privacy in the restroom without incessant banging on the door and shouting through it can't be too much to ask for, can it?

Kids are also frequently amusing, and perceptive far beyond what their physical age and embodiment might suggest. Their remarks are often wildly telling, of both the general family dynamic, and also, of their parents.

All of this is wonderful, except that patience is not to be counted amongst the greatest of my virtues, and I did not sign up for thankless service as a handmaiden.

So, sage Spark-folk, any wise tips on freeing oneself from the tiny, but powerful clutches of coddled youngsters?

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Member Comments About This Blog Post
    Getting to know children is a time involved thing and it changes as they mature too. You get to know the fatigue and frustration points only by living with them.

    Bathroom -- I suggest bribery --- a sign on the door that you are in there and teaching them if they leave you alone when you are in the bathroom they get a piece of chocolate. If their parents don't like this method, then ask the parents to keep them from knocking on the door while you are in there. During mommyhood you don't get much privacy in the bathroom until the kids are desiring privacy themselves, but other than that, it's teaching repeat lessons.

    I don't know how old the children are, but for some children, if you spend time doing what they want to do, they tend to leave you alone more. Funny how that works. So play a game or read them a book and then tell them that it's your time.

    It is important to teach "no not now" but you may have to put a dot on the clock, or if the clock is digital, put the time on the card, and they need to leave you alone until the clock numbers match the one on the card. They need to leave you alone because it is your "quiet time." You can also do silent time, where they have to do silent things around you. coloring, reading and such (again, I'd give the cue on the clock). Keep in mind, that attention spans shift, and they are variable during times of brain development. Younger kids, I'd go for 10 minutes, working towards quiet time. When I had a group for an hour with ages ranging from 4-12 years, I did 3 20 minute activities. They could attend for 20 minutes, but then it was time to shift up for some novelty. Longer than 20 minutes starts in the teen years except with certain children.
    You can also put a sign on your door indicating the time when you are available, like 4:00 or something. Then they have to learn to do something else until then. The time you get to yourself depends on how much of the supervising, care giving, and stuff you are responsible for. If you are watching them, you might be able to schedule outside/noisy time, quite activity time, reading time, snack and such, and then having the order of things gives your brain some rest.

    I use simple language for setting boundaries -- ok and not ok.
    You have to teach it about your stuff, your space, your body, how they pull, pinch, kick etc. I tend to hold my ground silently until there is compliance. In music therapy training, we did "non reward" -- put the head down and stop playing the song until there was compliance. Start up when there is compliance. Repeat as often as they test it. The learning happens. Peer pressure takes care of the redirection. It can be used in "I told you no" then put head down and wait until there is compliance. You may have to repeat words and action. This is the same thing when parents pull the car over, don't identify the issue, but when the kids start behaving, the car starts moving. When that happens every time there is problem behavior, the kids learn that the appropriate behavior keeps the car moving.

    Good luck!

    3733 days ago
    Maybe win the lottery? Tough situation. Can't punish or reprimand them as if you were their parent. They know it, too. All I can offer is good luck wishes. Is there a bottle of wine nearby? emoticon -- Lou
    3733 days ago
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