Good Enough Parenting

Boundaries & consequences



I have had a number of parents of teens contacting me lately about behavioural problems with their teenage children. Often these teenagers come from divorced families (although not always).

It is interesting to note that often the bad behaviour is not as a result of the divorce but as a result of poor parenting choices brought on by the guilt of getting divorced.

Divorced parents often struggle to agree on boundaries with their children. Partly because we all have slightly (or very) different ideas on what boundaries should be but more often it is because there is a level of competition and guilt between divorced parents.

When parents start using different value systems, or changing rules and boundaries, it is very harmful to the child.

Children of all ages need routine, boundaries and rules and these should have consequences if broken. In fact, it is not only children who need them but society in general. Try to remove yourself from the emotional standpoint of parenting and look at it this way:

Boundary / Rule
No stopping or parking on a solid red line.
So people don’t stop there and obstruct the flow of traffic.
Breaking it. What is the effect?
I.e. What if people do stop there? Other traffic cannot get past and the flow is interrupted and many people are inconvenienced.
A traffic fine from the police or an accident resulting in injury or death.
Now let’s get back to our children and use a simple example.
Boundary / Rule
Bed time. Children should have an age appropriate bed time. For a Grade 1 child, that is between, 7 and 8 pm. (1 0 – 11 Hours)
To ensure they have enough sleep to be able to function the next day.
Breaking it. What is the effect?
I.e. What’s happens if they have less sleep?
They struggle to get up in the morning. They will be cranky and will not be able to concentrate in class. Will not learn properly.
Teacher will get annoyed. Child ends up being reprimanded and having a bad day. Child starts to fall behind with work.

So, when you decide to take a boundary and ignore it or bend it, simply to spite your ex, please DON’T. Think of the consequence for your child.
If you do not have strict boundaries and stick to them, later on in life, when pre-teens and teens start to behave badly, suddenly parents try to implement new rules. By then, it is often too late and you can have big behavioural issues.
I often get contacted by parents of teens who have behavioural issues. They tell me that their teenager will not listen and is not afraid of any rules or breaking them.

Consequences must be age appropriate and behaviour appropriate. For example, if a young child misbehaves, it is appropriate to take away a favourite toy for a period of time. If a pre-teen misbehaves, it is appropriate to cancel a play date or an outing. If a teen misbehaves, it is appropriate to withhold pocket money, take away cell phone / computer etc. or ground them for a period of time.

Whilst on the topic of grounding, I have heard some very weak efforts in this department. In past times, grounding meant that kids would not be allowed to see their friends for the duration of the grounding. That now has to be adjusted to encompass social media. If your child is grounded, it should mean no contact with friends at all. No Skype, Facebook, BBM, SMS, Mixit, internet chatting, phone calls etc.

Only if they are properly isolated from their friends will they have the time to consciously think about the punishment and how much it affects them.

Of course, there can be many other reasons for kids behaving badly that are not related to lack of rules & boundaries. It is always advisable, if your child suddenly starts to behave differently to get to the root of the issue. Common reasons for sudden changes in behaviour can include peer pressure, bullying, drug or alcohol use, depression, change in home circumstances, grief and more.

Allow your child the opportunity to tell you or a trusted 3rd party (teacher, counsellor, family member etc.) what is going on in his or her life.

Remember that just as a divorce or any other trauma upsets adults it affects children too. They have no choice in the matter and the divorce kind of “happens to them”. Allow them the anger, the confusion and the grief but monitor it closely and make sure that it is not getting out of hand. If it is, seek professional help. Your child will be feeling like all of his security is being taken away and he will be yearning for safety. Routine and boundaries will keep him feeling secure and help him to get through the upheaval of a new family arrangement.

While divorce is the end of an era, it does not have to mean the ripping apart of families and hearts! It also does not have to mean that kids suddenly get to do what they want when they want. For the sake of the children, keep things as normal as possible.

Posted by CoParenting

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Divorce Quotes



"We all live with the objective of being happy; our lives are all different and yet the same." - Anne Frank