We have a very smart and lovable standard poodle named Calvin. As smart as he is, he has never understood that the passing cars were not going to take him for a ride. The moment our front door would open, he would bolt for the street, hoping for his opportunity for a clean get away. We would yell and chase him down, fearful for his life, scolding him the whole way home for his stupidity. It became obvious that all the reprimanding in the world was not going to change his ways and it was time for an electric fence. At first, I felt like a mean momma (he knows I’m his momma). Now when a car, dog, or squirrel looks tempting and he heads for the boundary line, a loud warning beep sounds. He immediately knows to retreat or he will receive an unpleasant zap.
Today, Calvin doesn’t even need to wear his collar. He knows where the boundary lines exist. No more yelling, scolding or telling him he is a bad dog. He is safe, content and happy to run and play within the safety of his own yard.
I believe setting boundaries with our teenagers can be much like having an electric fence.
Just like Calvin, our kids will not always understand why they need boundaries or like them for that matter. And while we might feel like mean moms when enforcing them, our actions are out of love. What really matters is that we set boundaries and follow through with them.
First, it’s essential that we are clear about the boundaries established and identify how they are in the best interest of our children. Understanding these two things will help hold the line when our kids are testing and pushing the limits. They will then know where the line is drawn.
Healthy boundaries create clarity and peace in the home—keeping them safe and us sane.
Boundaries create clarity and peace in our home.
Where there are no boundaries, there is confusion and chaos. When we are constantly changing our no to yes and yes to no, it’s confusing for everybody.
Boundaries create freedom.
As parents when we are clear about our expectations and the rules in our home, we don’t need to hover, be so strict or resort to controlling behavior. Boundaries are like an anchor in a storm. We can ride the waves with greater peace and ease rather than being tossed by fear with every wave that comes along. We can stand firm and relax a little. If they happen to step over the line, the consequences can speak for themselves.
They will test the boundaries and step over the line sometimes.
Just like Calvin standing at the edge of the yard, tempted to chase after that squirrel or car, our teens face many temptations and pressures that are outside of our limits. Expect it. Don’t take it personally. They will make mistakes. Our job is to hold the line and allow them to learn from those mistakes. When we hold the line there is no need to yell and treat them like bad kids. They are not. We need to anticipate that our teens will resist, resent and put up a fight. Oftentimes, even as adults we don’t like the rules and limits put in place. Who of us enjoys getting a ticket when we are caught speeding?
Our kids are desperate for boundaries in order to feel safe.
Our kids need to know that we are in control. Teens need to be able to bump up against something. I know from personal experience with our oldest child, we lacked clear boundaries early on which caused chaos and a lack of control. Several years back, she over-heard her younger sister protesting her dating age we had established. The begging and pleading and protesting had begun. Our rule and my conviction were clear. The line was drawn. My oldest daughter said to me, “You aren’t’ going to cave in like you did with me are you?” If you had told me a decade earlier that this statement would come out of her mouth, I wouldn’t have believed you. There it was. She had wanted the limits. She needed them and we had no idea.
If setting limits happens to be an area you battle with, you are not alone. This is a common struggle for most moms. (Click here if you would like to get some help beginning to define your boundary lines.) Begin to take charge and gain clarity in order to have peace and more freedom to enjoy one another in your home.