How to set rules and boundaries that work.

“You are not going to hit your friend.”

Well, actually he did hit his friend.

Boundaries are a funny thing, especially with children.  I used to think that I needed to set boundaries for them, I am the adult and I know what’s best for you.  Draw the line in the sand, and if they crossed it, trouble was sure to come their way (cleverly disguised as a consequence)

I believed this until a little boy named Aaron enrolled in my school.  Every time I “set” a boundary, not only did he cross it, he completely erased it.   I would tell Aaron all the “rules” of the classroom, Aaron would challenge each one as a personal mission to make my day miserable.  (at least it felt that way at the time).

Aaron would head butt another child while waiting line to go outside.

My response: “Aaron, you know you are not allowed to hurt your friends.”

Aaron would simply state, “He’s not my friend.”

I added, “You are not allowed to hit ANYONE else.”

Aaron:  “Yes I am, cuz I did.”

Aaron was an amazing teacher, even at 4 years old.  He taught me that I could not set boundaries for him. He would simply outwit or defy the rule maker every time.   He did not want to be nor could he be controlled.

The valuable lesson…the only boundaries I can set are my own.  The only person I can control is myself: my response, my actions, my communication.

Aaron gave me practice everyday to master this concept.  (he wasn’t the only one to give me practice, just the most memorable) J

I can hear the response, “Are you saying that kids don’t need rules, or boundaries?”

I am saying that I need to have a clear set of boundaries for myself and communicate those boundaries in a clear, simple, and effective way.

So what does it look and sound like?

I decide what I want, communicate it simply in a matter-of-fact state of being, and create a choice that will allow both of us to get our needs met.

This is what it sounds like: “Aaron, you are welcome to hit your head on the punching bag or hit your pillow.”

Some would say, “What about teaching him that that’s not nice or to be nice to his friend, or that’s not allowed?”

I would simply say to Aaron, “ I know that you are an amazing friend.  Sometimes I get angry when I have to wait in line too.  Sometimes when I get frustrated I stomp my foot on the ground.”

Aaron needed to know that I believe he is amazing. And he need to know that I too get angry. And then I verbally model a behavior I would like for him to embrace.

My boundary was clear to Aaron without the use of shame, guilt, or anger.  Hitting another classmate does not work for me.  Here’s what will work for me: he can hit the punching bag or the pillow.

That’s it.

It’s a simple and effective formula:

  1. I hold him in a space of greatness.  He IS an amazing child.
  2. I empathize with him, I have felt the same feelings.
  3. I model, with words, a behavior that is appropriate in this situation.

Aaron reminded me that I cannot stop a feeling or a response with a rule, a boundary.  I can only give suggestions on how to handle the feeling. We shared wisdom with each other.

Aaron’s wisdom:  Miss Heather, I don’t want to be controlled, and even if you try, it won’t work.

My wisdom:  Let me offer some ways, dear Aaron, of how you can channel your feelings in situations like this.

I would rather be a mentor than a police officer.  I want to model options that are appropriate.  A mentor gives options and inspires personal growth.  I want to inspire!

Is there a boundary or rule you can re-frame to reflect your needs and offer a choice to your child?




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What makes a parent a good parent?

What Makes a Good Parent - Good Mom

 Tune into this BlogTalkRadio show on “What makes a parent a good parent?”



Wouldn’t it be great if children came with a manual? I recently shared my thoughts on parenting – and what makes a good parent – with Dr. Wendy Dearborn, Holistic Life Coach.

In this BlogTalkRadio show I share what parents can do to be their best with themselves and with their children.

Listen in as Dr. Wendy challenges some of my thoughts. And stay tuned while I share with a teacher who called in on why we need to update our parenting strategies to work with the modern children coming into this world.  This is an episode full of unconventional wisdom and specific strategies parents can use in their families.




Raise A Happy Child - Parenting Blog, Book and Videos

Empowerment Technique #1 – How to turn “no” into “yes” at the store.

Empowered Kid

I was recently in Target with my husband and we walked through his favorite department:  electronics. My nightmare begins.  My husband has decided that we NEED the new iPad2.  He explains all the benefits that this device will offer our family, especially me!  I give him the time to explain.  As he finishes I say “No.”  He begins another approach: this time how it will help my business.  Sneaky.  But still “NO.”  We are in the middle of the isle and now enter into a full-blown discussion.  His position: “This will help our family.”  My position: “It’s not in the budget…really NOT in the budget.” We move quickly from discussion to heated debate!

The word “no” is not just a button for children.  It is a button for humans.  I don’t like to be told “no.”  And in this instance my husband feels the same way.

I have always done my best to give children options that revolve around what they CAN do.  Over the years, many children taught me when I offer options of what they CAN do, they will move forward instead of digging their heels in to the ground.

We want to know our possibilities instead of our restrictions or limitations.  We deeply want to feel the power to make all our dreams come true.

So here it is the simple, powerful, good feeling way to approach any situation you feel the need to say “No” to in a store.  Take a moment to ask yourself:

  1. What can I say yes to? And,
  2. How can I empower my child to come up with a solution and let them know I believe in them?

So how would I replay Target?  I would simply say “That’s a great idea babe!  I know you will come up with a way to get that iPad that will work for our family!  I can’t wait because it will help me so much with the business!  You always seem to make things work for you. I know you will create a way to get it!”

Every time I gave the power to the child to decide, think, and dream for himself…he always rose to the occasion and actually thought of better ways to accomplish their dreams than I did.

Now imagine yourself with your child in the same store.

Same script, smaller person. 

If my child asks me for something in the store – and it’s not in my budget – here is how I play it out:

“What a cool toy!  I love that toy too!  I didn’t plan on getting that toy today.  But I know if you really want it you will come up with a way to get it!  Can you think of some ways you could get that for yourself?”

If I am time starved and in a hurry, I only modify the last part.  That script goes like this:

“What a cool toy!  I love that toy too!  I didn’t plan on getting that toy today.  But I know if you really want it you will come up with a way to get it!  I’ll give you some time. I’ll count to ten and if you can come up with an answer, great!  If you can’t think of a way now, you can always think more about it tonight at home.”

The idea is to inspire my child to see the possibility for him to get the things he desires from various sources, or means beyond my credit card.   To know that great things are always coming his way if we just open our minds to other available avenues. 




Raise A Happy Child - Parenting Blog, Book and Videos