TIPS to create effective boundaries and inspire cooperative behavior in your household…
Lean on the 3C’s (Clarity, Consistency and Commitment) when setting and enforcing boundaries. In the midst of today’s busy lifestyle, practicing the 3C’s at home is daunting task in itself. It requires real effort by parents to figure out what is important to them, decide which behaviors require concrete structure, and enforce the rules even when they cause inconvenience to themselves.
What many parents don’t realize is how much more satisfying and enjoyable family life can be after the initial investment of time and effort required to establish the 3C’s. Once children know that boundaries are firm, with real and predictable consequences tied to them, the practice of testing those boundaries becomes frustrating for a child. As living within the rules becomes routine, the tension surrounding those “sore spots” fades away.
Listen and understand. Don’t jump to conclusions. Recurring stress in any relationship causes defensiveness. Human tendency is to hear words under such tense circumstances, then interpret them to support their existing defensive stance. In other words, true listening stops and word-twisting inadvertently becomes the norm.
Kids are especially prone to such behavior, but it is harder for them to recognize this situation. Therefore, the burden is put on parents to break the cycle and actively listen; to ask questions and ensure understanding; to make amends before emotional barriers become too high.
This is especially important when setting boundaries and resolving important issues, as any miscommunication or lack of understanding can lead to “band-aid” solutions that may temporarily ease the pain, but never truly fix the problem.
Focus on cleaning up a few big issues, rather than fixing all the small ones. The old adage “Rome wasn’t built in a day” has never been so true. Trying to fix all family problems in one fell swoop is essentially conceding defeat. In order to make sustainable improvement, families must identify the biggest sources of tension and fix those first. Once the biggies are out of the way, emotions subside, healthier routines develop, and families can refocus their efforts on the next wave of problems slated for repair.
Plan fun activities that everyone in the family can enjoy together. As the world turns and people evolve, sometimes family members forget how to enjoy each other company. They grow bored with favorite shared activities and never replace them. Once this happens, laughs are harder to come by and bonds become more strained.
Find activities to share a family unit, as well as individually with each member. When out shopping (i.e. shoes at a sporting goods store), keep your eyes pealed for something fun (i.e. bocce set) and bring it home to enjoy with your loved ones. Worst case, it bombs and you’re out a few bucks. Best case, you find a shared pastime to fill in until you find the next one.
Focus on improvement…not perfection. If life were about perfection, we’d all be doomed to bitter failure. Don’t expect it from yourself or those around you. Doing so will lead to certain disappointment. Make a commitment to gradually improve. Establish the family infrastructure (i.e. 3C’s) and communication patterns to start the ball rolling up hill. Then enjoy the continued progress you see in yourself and those around you. Remember, life is sweeter when your look forward.
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