The building blocks of boundaries
And why you’ll need a Q-TIP
When we think of saying no to kids, our minds most often turn to the terrible twos and how we, as parents, struggled to navigate those rock-strewn waters. I remember my then two-year-old, 29 years ago, ignoring me when I said it was time to leave the toystrewn waiting room at our GP’s office.
These are the memories that surface. Not the teen ones. There’s a reason for that. As tough as it was to parent toddlers, it was relatively simple. We’re still sleep-deprived, they’ve just discovered the word NO, and our job is to figure out how to get them to do stuff they don’t want to do. Without having a tantrum. Us or them.
It sounds hard. And it was. But the terrible twos are easy street compared to the storms of adolescence — for one simple reason: Power. It all turns on power. Toddlers need us for literally everything in their lives. And they pretty much know it. Thus natural consequences work really well to motivate them to do what we want. and inspired by Dreikurs, written by Don C. Dinkmeyer). It became easy to deal with refusals like getting moving from the fun doctor’s office (and other cool places): “Oh, you don’t want to come? That’s OK, but I’m going. Bye.” And of course they come running along promptly, because the toddler knows they can’t get home (or indeed anywhere else) without us. Not so for the teenager. Which is the first reason why setting boundaries with teens is so challenging. They don’t need us for much. Nice that we pay the mortgage and provide meals and drive them around, but they don’t see life that way.
Teens are hard-wired to differentiate from their parents and to believe in their independence, however illusory. They like to think they don’t need us, and that we have no power Parenting columnist Joanne Kates is an expert educator in the areas of conflict mediation, self-esteem and anti-bullying, and she is the director of Camp Arowhon in Algonquin Park.