November – Asset #11, Family Boundaries
by Kelly Curtis from Pass the Torch
In my role as a school counselor, I spend a lot of time in the pre-kindergarten classrooms. For many children, the first weeks of school are a major transition, but after these master teachers establish the structure, most students fall right in and meet behavioral expectations. All too often, however, we’ll discover that behavior at home continues to be inappropriate.
Parents often brace themselves for the “bad behavior” report they’re convinced they’ll hear at conferences, only to be shocked when they find out Jonny is a completely different child in the 4K classroom.
The difference? Boundaries.
Search Institute has identified Family Boundaries as one of the 40 Developmental Assets, which means research shows it’s a characteristic of healthy, caring, resilient kids. The more assets youth have, the more likely they’ll resist risky behaviors in the future. Search defines family boundaries for young children as: “The family provides consistent supervision for the child and maintains reasonable guidelines for behavior that the child can understand and achieve.”
Here are a few tips from teachers, as well as the classic book, Parenting with Love and Logic:
Use a normal voice, with everyday language, when explaining to a child that he or she is not meeting behavioral expectations.
Regularly and calmly remind your child about your expectations for behavior.
- “In our family, we ….”
- “What is the rule about …?”
- “What do you think I think about this choice?”
Express an observation when you reinforce a positive behavior, rather than a judgment. Rather than, “I like that picture you made,” try:
- “I see you smiling about that picture you made.”
- “Your smile makes me wonder if you’re proud of yourself.”
- “I see lot of bright colors on your picture.”
Master the art of offering choices. Every chance you get, ask your child to choose between two different options. Older children can have more choices, but no matter how many, make sure you would be happy with any of them. The more often you do this, the more self-control your child feels, and the more likely he or she will make appropriate choices about the tough issues.
- “Would you rather have Cheerios or crackers for snack today?”
- “Would you like to wear your blue hat or red hat?”
- “There are two ways to play this game – by joining us or watching us. Which are you prepared to do?”
For your child, some techniques will work better than others, but the philosophy is what matters. The goal is to help children to become problem solvers, and control their own behavior. What do you do to reinforce family boundaries?
Thanks for joining in to build assets in your kids! Please come back for my second “family boundaries” installment next month.
Kelly Curtis is a Wisconsin school counselor and author of Empowering Youth: How to Encourage Young Leaders to Do Great Things. To read more about Kelly, please visit her Weblog, Pass the Torch.