To some people setting boundaries with children or other grown ups comes naturally. They never struggle to establish their own authority and space or to find a good balance between the carrot and the stick. Others either let their empathy and politeness be the end of them, or end up perpetually angry. Is there a magic formula to determine just the amount of boundaries your child needs in order to both be happy and grow into a kind and functional adult, or are there simply too many factors at play?
I do not come from the school that believes that all children are born the same and that it is entirely the environment in which they are amerced that determines a child’s personality. I do however believe that both as spiritual beings and as individual people we go through the same learning curve in order to attain greater awareness, understanding and enlightenment. That curve includes:
1. The baby phase (0-3 years depending on the individual). The being has no understanding of good and bad and no context in which to judge life or their actions. They are like sponges soaking in everything that is happening around them and mimicking the behaviour of others. Their greatest need is the need to feel safe and secure. This is essential since they can provide for very few of their own needs and rely on others to take care of them. You will accomplish very little by expressing your anger at a baby through yelling, spanking or putting them in time out. At best you will leave them with the impression that the world is a scary place and that cruelty is acceptable. The best course of action at this point is to accept that there should be very little in the form of boundaries and that the baby needs lots and lots of patience and love. Affirmations of what the baby is not allowed to do, through saying “no” and taking away their toys or objects of interest is an acceptable approach to correcting their behaviour. You may need to ask for help when you feel drained and in need of nurturing. It is neither fair not good for any infant to have only one caretaker.
When most souls on earth were infants
2. The child phase (3-12 years, depending on the child). A child has an understanding of themselves and is developing an understanding of the world. They are now capable of distinguishing between what is good behaviour and what is bad. They are also more eager to connect with others, express themselves and test the limits of your boundaries over and over again. This is the time to be firm. Very firm. Do not give into the trap of trading their discipline for their unconditional love for you. Being perceived as the “good guy” and “nice parent” at this stage may be flattering, but will not gain you any gratitude in the teenage years. Do not use your child to fill your emotional needs for love and approval. Set very clear rules and enforce them consistently. Make your child feel safe by setting boundaries and allow them to trust that authority can be relied on and can be good.
Do not let your child be idle or bored for long periods of time. Make sure that they always know what they are supposed to be doing, whether it’s a karate class, chores or playing outside with friends, structure is essential.
Try to be fair and to not react to your child’s tantrums in an emotional way. Give yourself time to calm down before you punish their bad behaviour. Remember that as a parent you must also be their primary supporter and to encourage, complement and approve of any good behaviour and talent that they display. Show them how proud you are of them when they act well.
When most souls on earth were children
3. The young adult phase (13-25 years). During this phase the individual will be learning to assert their own power in the world, to establish authority, independence and competency. This is the most egotistical phase, during which people are the least empathetic and the least willing to put themselves in the shoes of others in order to access the consequences of their actions. The moto is “I can”.
With youth, health and beauty on their side, most young adults are convinced that they are very important in the scheme of things, that they are exceptional even, and that they will change the world. As a result, it is often precisely this developmental group that ends up changing the world. Their traumas are fewer than those of adults. They are therefore prone to arrogance and unkindness, thinking that they will be invincible to the scars endured by others.
Having had a child phase where boundaries were clearly established and upheld, will make a huge difference in determining how difficult the young adult years will be.
As a parent, you may continue setting punishments and rewards and enforcing them, but most of your teaching now will be taking place through example. The young adult is much more likely to follow your advice if you yourself follow it and if it helped you be successful. If they do not perceive you as powerful, successful or desirable by others, your teachings are much more likely to fall on deaf ears.
Do not over-coddle your adolescent child, let them start learning through their own mistakes. Set boundaries for safety (and keeping away bad influences) more than for discipline, and remember that your greatest enemy is still idleness. A young adult needs to be productive. School, chores,part-time work, sports, arts, activities,friends. Not video games, porn and TV for 6 hours a day.
What we are trying to transition away from now
4. The adult/ mature person phase (25-35). There are very many people on our planet that spiritually have not arrived at this phase yet and are still exploring one of the earlier ones. As a parent, you are meant to have let go of the apron strings entirely. Be there for your child when they need you, but accept that they are now on equal footing with you.
5. The old soul. People who arrive at this phase have mastered most of what they incarnated to learn, and are preparing to transition to higher dimensions. They have little need for a parental figure in their lives, though their love for others and appreciation for them is strong.