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Guide Overview

Structures Limits and Boundaries Oh My!

A look into the importance of consistent structure and how to set them up to help create calm for your children through an environment they can predict.
February 24, 2023
Summary Notes

- Creating a secure relationship with your child involves giving them the experience of having things handled by the grown-up.

- To help children feel secure, set up boundaries, limits, and structures. These structures may vary based on the child's needs but should include things like meal times, morning routines, and expected behaviors.

- Simple structures in the environment help children know how to navigate their surroundings. For example, setting rules about food on the couch, brushing teeth before bed, and reading books together every day.

- It is important for structures to be consistent initially so that children can internalize them. Over time, exceptions can be made, but not too soon as it can hinder the internalizing process.

- Children need both physical and emotional boundaries. Physical boundaries include not running into the street or putting fingers in light sockets. Emotional boundaries include not hitting, calling names, or using physical aggression.

- Emotional boundaries take longer to develop, but are just as important as physical ones. With teenagers, for example, a structure around sobriety while driving may be necessary.

- It is important to not misuse structure as a form of power, but instead to use it as a guide to keep children safe and healthy.

- If you are unsure of what structures to create, consider reading the book "Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids" by Dr. Laura Markham. Also, talk to friends about the rules in their homes and the thought process behind them.

- Have grace for your children as they learn the structures, boundaries, and limits. Recognize that there is a learning process, but also have confidence that this is something they are expected to learn

- A controlled environment is not comforting to a child and makes them feel like there is no one in charge. It is important to strike a balance between control and grace.

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 One of the most important parts of creating a secure relationship with your child is giving your child the experience that you have things handled, that you as the grownup are handling things. And we do that not only in how we respond to their emotions, but also how we set up an environment for them.

So what are the boundaries and limits and structures that you can create for your children in order to help them feel secure? Every child is a little bit different. For the most part, children need similar things, so they need to know when food is gonna be on the table and what the expectations are around when they get ready in the morning, and where they go when it's time to go, and how you will respond, what parts you are participating in, what help you are offering.

Simple structures actually help a child to know how to navigate their environment. For instance, we don't.  any food on the couches in our living room that could possibly stain my rug because I get grouchy. That structure is very clear. They can have an apple, they can have a granola bar. Those are the two things that they're allowed to have on the couch when they're watching a show.

They can have any other snacks on the stairs that are next to the living room where they can still see the tv. If they are really needing something else, they can have that something else, but just not on the couches. We brush our teeth before bed is a structure. We read three books together every day as a s.

we hug and kiss and give a hug, A mugga and a high five before we go to school is a structure. Structures don't have to be rigid, but they have to be consistent. Well, what does that mean? You initially set up a structure or a rule. You wanna make sure that you are doing it for a few weeks initially, that you aren't budging on that, so that your kids can begin to internalize the meaning of it and get used to the rhythm.

After a few weeks, you can make exceptions. Maybe something really terrible happened at school and they're like, and I please just about pops to go on the couch with you and you're like, you know what? Today you can that that's, we can today. We won't begin tomorrow, but today we can. You make that exception too early on in the structure process.

Then it will mess up that internalizing or absorbing of what the structure is for your child. Most parents are fairly upt at creating boundaries around safety things. We don't run out into the middle of the street. We don't put our finger into a light. Children also need to set up emotional structure or boundaries or limits.

We don't hit each other. We don't call names. We don't spit, we don't bite, right? What do we do? We use gentle hands. We keep our, we keep our mouths to ourselves. We use our words when we're mad, right? And those are structures that take a long time to develop. Your two-year-old is not gonna be able to hear you and learn that in two weeks.

That's gonna take probably a year for that child to absorb that. It's no different with teenagers. You may use the. As long as you are sober and you are not driving anyone else in the car, in the event that we discover that either of those two things have happened, you will not be able to continue to drive that car and we will have to take a two month break while you earn our trust back.

That's a structure your children won't always like structure when you set it, but it's creating within you and them this strong sense that you are a guide who is helping to keep them safe and. Now structure can be misused as a form of power. And many of you may have grown up in a home like that where structure wasn't about keeping you healthy and guiding you to your next developmental stage.

It was about a parent saying, I'm the boss. Understand the hesitancy in a lot of my traumatized population parents that you are feeling like I don't want my kids to feel that restricted in that coldness and that cruelty, but I want you to hear that that is not how they will receive it. And especially as they'll develop, they'll, people will look back and.

Oh yeah, that was good, right? Like, thanks mom, that you didn't let me drink beer when I was 12. That was really good parenting, right? Even though that 12 year old might be like, what's your problem, mom? Like, just like loosen up a little bit. If you are unsure what structure to create for your kids, I recommend the book Peaceful Parent, happy Kids by Dr.

Laura Markham. She has some really. Um, talking about how you're gonna think developmentally and what each developmental stage needs and what each child needs, um, and also talk to your friends. What are the rules in your house? How do you enforce those rules? How do you talk about them? What is the thought process that goes about?

Which ones which, what things you allow and what things you don't. You wanna have grace for our kids as they learn our structure, boundary and limits. Recognizing that there's usually a learning process, but we also wanna have confidence that this is something we're gonna expect them to learn and we are gonna change our minds.

It isn't comforting to a child to be in control. It makes them feel like there is no one who's going to be able to handle those big moments when they're out of control. Right? So when we set up a structure that we as the parents are going to create this boundary around safety, health, wellbeing, and growth, it gives them a sense that we are a trustworthy guide.