Encouraging Children: Boundaries in Freedom

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Raising children would probably be the most tasking responsibility parents have. It’s easy to give instructions to guide them and maybe even spank them when they fail to follow your instructions. Being the example the children need isn’t always as easy as, “You are only allowed 30 minutes on your phone daily”, or “You are allowed on 1 hour with TV on school days”, or “You should be in bed by 8:30 pm on school days”.

I want to be the perfect example for my children but am I the perfect example? No. I have chosen not to beat up myself about it even though I am striving at being that example they need.

We all learn in different ways and react to things in different ways. For instance, I grew up picking myself off every hate speech and disappointment. Although I may still be a work in progress, I am much better than where I should be if I’d let a lot of things get to me. So I encourage my children to explore so that they can grow and be independent and strong and try over and over until they are best at whatever they set out to do. In giving room to explore though, I find that it is necessary to set boundaries in order not to enable them move even farther away than you intended. So how do we encourage children and set boundaries?

  1. Be precise

Miscommunication is not the way to establish a positive environment. Effective communication is necessary. Ask them to repeat back to you what they heard you say to verify it’s understood. It pays to make sure everyone is on the same page. This way, there is respect for boundaries in whatever they do.

  1. Involve the kids in boundary setting

Have a family meeting. Family communication gets everyone involved in setting the boundaries even while we’re on the journey to making more confident children. When children share ownership of the rules, they’re more invested.

  1. Be trustworthy

Your kids need to know that they can count on you. When you fail to back up your words with action, your words will cease to mean anything. Your discipline and boundary setting will become hollow and your purpose is defeated.

  1. Less is more

Five rules respected 100% of the time are better than 20 rules with haphazard compliance. Don’t burden the children with so much that they lose count of what rule or guide works for what. After all, there are only just 10 commandments.

  1. Draw up a contract

Once the “Family Ten-Commandments” have been established, write up a document that everyone will sign. You may think you children are too small for such commitments but remember the essence in the first place is to get them to focus, be committed, grow into responsible adults.

  1. Post the rules

Post copies of the contract in the kitchen and in each bedroom. Remember, these are not restrictions so much as rules to live by. What is written and pasted comes to mind more frequently and sticks faster than glue.

  1. Avoid labeling children as “good” and “bad”

Children and adults behave in ways that are acceptable and in ways that are unacceptable. Labeling a child as “bad” will do little to improve behavior and a lot to create a negative self-image. A negative self-image does no good for building confidence and encouraging creativity in children.

  1. NEVER undermine the other parent

“Good-cop, bad-cop” is not a useful game at home. “Don’t tell your mom!” suggests you and your wife are divided. Parents must have each other’s backs. It’s another way to be consistent. Children can only play on the other parent’s emotions when they sense or know that both parents are not on the same page. Manipulative children only keep having their way which gets more difficult to let go as they grow older.


UNITY and EXAMPLE is the watchword when setting boundaries while encouraging children.

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