Build Positive Boundaries to the ‘Outside World’ and Create Family Time

Define a group of shared activities (family rituals) that have special meaning to the members of the family. Perhaps a family craft, activity (such as hiking, exercising or other outside family fun events). Rituals are just one way of establishing boundaries for the family.

The important message is that “time together” is the foundation of a family that has placed priority on the lives of its members. Mental health of the family relies on healthy boundaries, supportive and fun time together. Parents who work on developing fun, family rituals find their children fear less, are less prone to anxiety, agitation, depression and, irritability and other mental illnesses.

How to create time:

  1. Turn the television, computers and cell phones off
  2. Make the ordinary special (drive your child to school, if possible)
  3. Have uninterrupted family meals and outings
  4. Call home from work to have a conversation with your child or teen
  5. Say “no” to evening meetings and begin to build healthy boundaries
  6. Reduce the number of after school activities to focus on family time

There is convincing evidence, that regular periods of uninterrupted conversation, if possible during the nurturing of a mealtime, is the most common factor in the lives of high achieving students. Give this “gift” to yourself and your child. Amazing things begin to happen when you develop family rituals, boundaries and child-first thinking. Better decisions are made on behalf of the family as a whole, the family enjoys stress relief, anxiety relief, and overall mental health wellness.

Parenting Concerns: Readiness and Ability to Mind

Simple general rules for getting your child to mind are:

1)      Be sure that what you demand is not beyond his ability;

2)      Be sure that you have his attention before you speak;

3)      Try not to demand too much – don’t always be ordering him around.

Getting the child to mind is really up to you.  Also, deciding how exactly and how immediately he is to carry out your orders is for you to determine.  It may help a little to know some of the changes in readiness and the ability to mind, that are found in children of different age levels. The ability to mind, like other abilities, changes and grows with increasing age.

 18 months – The child of this age does not, as a rule, obey direct commands.  In fact, he is likely to do exactly the opposite of what you request.

 2 ½ years  – The child may obey some simple commands, but in general is imperious and domineering.  Techniques and indirect approaches usually work better with him than direct commands.

3 years  –  At this age most children are much more responsive to directions.  Many like to please and conform, within the limits of their abilities.  They are attentive to spoken directions.  They respond best to specific, rather than general directions, and are susceptible to both praise and blame.

4 years  –  Four is less eager to please and conform.  He likes to do things his own way and enjoys defying the adult.  He is out of bounds and resistant in many directions, and is less sensitive to praise and blame than at three.

 5 years  –  Conforming Five needs, invites and accepts supervision and direction.  He even asks for directions and thrives on praise for conformity.

 6 years  –  Six usually responds slowly, or even negatively to commands, although if you can ignore his initial, “No, I won’t” he often later carries out the command spontaneously, as though it were his own idea.  He needs a little time and a little leeway.  If he says, “No,” try “See if you can do it before I count to ten,” or “I guess you’re going to need three chances on that one.”  If you can, give in a little and do not demand instantaneous conformity and obedience; things will go more smoothly.  However, many Sixes are negative, rude, resistant, saucy and argumentative in the face of direct commands.

 7 years   –  Seven is not as belligerently uncooperative as is Six, but he often does not respond promptly, does not hear directions and may forget what you have told him.  He may start to obey and then get into a detour along the way.  Best results are obtained by warning him in advance, reminding him when the time comes, and checking to see that he does not get off the track along the way.

 8 years  –  Eight is a little better.  He usually delays somewhat in carrying out a request and may argue and find excuses, but he finally obeys with, “If you insist.”  He prefers to work for an immediate (cash) reward, than simply for the sake of helping.  Many Eights want, not full directions, which they consider babyish, but just a hint or cue.  Thus, they prefer the word “dinner” to “Wash your hands and get ready for dinner.”  Or, if full instructions are given, they may insist that these be worded “just right.”

9 years  –  Considerable improvement here.  Many can now interrupt their own activity (so difficult at 7), in response to a request or demand from the adult.  However, securing the child’s attention in the first place may depend on his interest and willingness to carry out the request.  He may wish to postpone the task until later and then may become so busy that he forgets.  Even now he needs to be given detailed instructions to begin with, and then reminder.  But there is much less arguing back than previously.  If the child does not like the directions, he may look sullen, cross, truculent; but if no issue is made, he will usually obey eventually.  Many now prefer a fair appraisal of their work, to praise or pay.

 10 years   –   Though there may be some resistance, delay and objection, in general Tens are reasonably good about carrying out commands and reasonably docile about obeying.  Most at this age do accept the idea that the parents’ word is law.

– by Frank Doberman, PhD

Dr. Frank Doberman is Co-Founder of Karner Psychological Associates (KPA) and is a leader in the fields of clinical psychology, is a Licensed Psychologist, Certified in School Psychology, Educational Administration and is a regular contributor to News 10 WTEN.

Copyright © 2011 Karner Psychological Associates | All Rights Reserved.