“I do so much for my children, and they just don’t appreciate it. They only think about themselves. Sometimes I feel like I’m just here to give them what they want. Why don’t they think about me?”
When you think this way, there is a good chance that you have not set clear personal boundaries.
A boundary differs from a rule or limit.
You set a boundary on what you will or will not do, and a rule or limit on what you do or do not want your children to do.
You are controlling your own behavior in response to what your child does, rather than directly trying to control your child’s behavior.
Here are examples of boundaries:
- “I’m not able to drive you to the store now.”
- “I will make dinner after the kitchen is cleaned.”
- “I’ll give you an answer after you ask nicely.”
- “It’s too late for me to play a game with you.”
- “I won’t pay $70 for shoes. I’ll give you $35 toward the shoes.”
Each boundary statement focuses on your needs and actions.
Rather than trying to get power over your child, you are taking control of yourself.
However, the boundary setting approach is more respectful to both of you and avoids power struggles, as long as you stay the course.
If you give a boundary statement, then give in to negative reactions from your kids, you’ll end up in an argument.
Setting boundaries starts with courage and develops confidence once you see positive results.
Here are some same examples stated in a rule format where the parent is trying to control the child’s behavior.
- “I wish you had told me earlier that you need a ride. Now dinner will be late.”
- “Clean up the kitchen now.”
- “Don’t talk to me in that rude tone.”
- “If you had gotten ready earlier, we would have had time to play a game.”
- “How can you expect me to pay $70 for shoes?”
Non-boundary responses usually blame the child and feel hurtful, which leads to a revenge cycle of the child trying to hurt you back.
This is followed by an out-of-control power struggle.
Using personal boundary setting statements ensures that your needs are respected and you feel appreciated.
It can be hard to set a boundary that denies or delays your child’s wants and needs.
As you change to boundary setting, there will be some push back from your children because they are used to you putting your needs second.
Knowing how to balance whose needs are being met can be tricky…
As soon as you feel unappreciated for what you have done for your kids, start putting yourself first more often with boundary setting.
The qualities of putting others’ needs first and being altruistic comes more naturally for some than for others.
If you have a child who uses their strength to fight for their needs, it’s imperative that you set clear boundaries in a calm and loving manner.
Be careful not to judge these children and label them as “self-centered.”
Rather, see your child as being proud and guide them toward restraining some of their own needs and putting others first.
As opposed to saying, “Don’t be so selfish,” which can be hurtful, realize that you are trying to teach them to become aware of others’ needs through setting boundaries.
Make them wait, and do for others first before meeting their own needs.
Some children want to be overprotected and need your strong and loving boundaries, as well.
When you say, “I’m not going to put your clothes away for you. I know you can do it,” you are stating your boundary and confidence in their ability to succeed without your help.
If whining follows, repeat your boundary. You can also add what will come after she finishes. Keep in mind not to engage in an argument. Often, leaving is more helpful, with words like, “I’ll see you at the breakfast table.”
Here are some parental self-talk statements that will remind you of the importance of boundary setting.
- It’s important for my child to learn how to contribute to the family. My boundaries help teach this value.
- I can handle an upset child who doesn’t get his way. The upsets will diminish when I am firm.
- I won’t allow myself to feel manipulated. I will clearly state what I will or will not do and won’t change my mind.
Do you find boundary setting difficult? Can you see where sticking to your boundary would make you feel more appreciated and teach your children appreciation?
For more help on setting personal boundaries, read another article, Trying to Control Versus Parental Boundaries
Great article on helping kids view advertising correctly on Common Sense Media