I view the boundaries I set for myself and for my rangatahi as love in action.
I am not using this as justification for being either too harsh or too soft. Parenting is something you put your best intentions into and yet frequently don’t get ‘right.’
Love in action is my frame. It’s my way of viewing the boundaries I use as a reason for what I say, the actions I take (or don’t take), and the consequences. Do my rangatahi always like and respect my boundaries just I’ve set them? Ah, no! What they do understand though is where I’m coming from.
Boundaries are value-driven. Mine are made up of the beliefs I have encountered over the years; and how I have interpreted them. Some have been with me all my life, instilled by my parents when I was young. Other beliefs have arrived recently as I’ve developed knowledge on the best way to live my life, in the process letting go of some of the old beliefs and inserting new beliefs.
My beliefs highlight the things I value and are important to me. And they can be seen in the boundaries I set with my rangatahi. Some of my highest values are family, fun, and connection.
As my rangatahi have grown and been able to take responsibility for keeping themselves safe the boundaries have changed in our house. We used to have boundaries about driving and the time to be home by. Now we have boundaries about self-integrity, communication, and staying true to the passions that drive us.
The key to effective boundary holding and setting is
When our rangatahi are younger and it’s about safety these show up in a more black and white manner. They’re pretty cut and dried: hit your sister for no reason and you’re in time out … the behaviour generates a consequence that you follow through.
It gets harder when they’re older
As our rangatahi grow, boundary-setting and boundary enforcing become harder. No longer can we send them to their rooms for time out. And we are usually dealing with behaviour that has happened the night/the week before, not immediately.
The immediate areas of difficulty are:
- Our boundaries are often a bit hidden. We haven’t taken the time to explain to our rangatahi the why that sits behind them. They don’t find out there’s a boundary until they’ve stepped over it OR you don’t realise there needs to be a boundary until they’ve stepped over it.
- There’s a conflict – our boundaries are often not the same as the boundaries my own rangatahi have latched onto. And so much of this work is understanding the process and purpose of adolescence. If you have rangatahi who never cross boundaries you are likely to have a person who later in life doesn’t know how to stand up for themselves. By guiding them through this conflict you provide the perfect opportunity to demonstrate love in action.
- So many more boundaries fall into areas we are just not prepared for. At what age do you allow your children to have sex in your house? When is it ok to watch porn, and when is it not ok to watch porn? How about getting a job? And what type of jobs are on the right side of your boundaries vs on the wrong side of your boundaries? If they take a job you don’t think is right for them, how do you talk about it with them?
- There are an overwhelming number of things to set boundaries about. What are your boundaries about drugs? Alcohol? Tattoos? Vaping? Phones?
Parents, don’t be fooled. If you think your rangatahi isn’t at the very least curious about these things then you are putting yourself in a place of weakness. The world our rangatahi are growing into is vastly different from the world we inhabited and yet it’s still our job to guide them through it. It is exponentially harder to parent our rangatahi effectively if we don’t know what’s really going on.
I don’t have any black and white answers for you – for every family, there will be a different set of conflicting beliefs and values that will result in different boundaries.
Make the space to kōrero with them
This is your most effective tool. To kōrero means listening without judgment as you create a space they feel safe to open up in. It’s called holding a boundary. And it’s hard. But it’s better than not knowing what’s going on, only to realise later that your rangatahi have followed a path of their choosing which has turned out to be a path where they really could have used some guidance.
Talking with our rangatahi, and holding that boundary of safety around your conversation is a beautiful gift to give. The biggest, most visible boundary I have with my rangatahi is to tell me what’s going on.
Because otherwise, I have no way of parenting them effectively. And one thing I know is true – they still need parenting.
Communicating with our rangatahi is at the heart of effective parenting practice. For coaching and support head over to www.beautifulconversations.co.nz