I wrote earlier about what to do when kids put up a big loud boundary, when they stonewall you, and what you can do to soften things up. That will get you creating safety, so the wall can come down, so that you can talk together.
But really, the whole point of that is to get you to a place where you can skill build with your child, and the obvious one to work on here is how to communicate a boundary well. So let’s look at that for a moment: How do you help your child express their boundaries better?
If this is your kid, let’s pause a moment and notice what’s RIGHT about this situation: your child has boundaries. They feel that discomfort, and instead of wilting, they stand up for themselves. They’re not blindly following the crowd, falling into People Pleasing by default. That’s a good thing! They’re not at level 0, they’re at level 2, already feeling and defending their boundaries…just not so skillfully.
The next time your child throws up that wall, recognize what your child is doing right! Cheer them on. Admire them. Oh-ho! Yeah! You don’t just take it! You know when something doesn’t sit right with you, and you speak up! You haven’t lost touch with your anger, my daughter, and so many girls do – that’s worth celebrating. You are righteous. You are powerful.
Second, share their impact on you. Lead with vulnerability. Tell them how bad you feel, how discouraged, how distant. Explain why this conversation is important to you.
From this connected place, teach them to use better language, a more effective tone, to empathize, to be vulnerable, to ask for what they want (instead of what they don’t want).
Your starting place might be: “ABSOLUTELY NOT! We’re NEVER talking about that! Don’t ever bring it up again!” [storms out of the room]
Your finish line looks more like: “Let me think about it. I can tell this is important to you, but I really don’t feel comfortable discussing it right now. Can we talk about it later, maybe this weekend?”
Connect and then correct. Then acknowledge the good work you’re doing together, how this is going to help them be great partners, friends, and leaders.
This is not simply maturity. Yes, we get better at defending our boundaries with time, calibrating just how much force is needed in a particular situation, but those of us who are taught how have a huge advantage. The rest of us who bungle about, learning through trial and error, have a much steeper path. We alienate potential allies and make conflicts worse, when we could be earning trust and admiration.
No one is in a better position to do this skill building than you are! Boundaries conversations are a natural part of family life, and rather than spreading out more, giving everyone their own room and their own set of art supplies, let’s learn how to be close.
You don’t have to knock yourself silly against your child’s brick wall! If you want that closeness, and some help coaching your child from here to there, let’s talk. Jump on my calendar for a free consultation so I can help you with your particular situation. The next time you’re feeling battered, step back and recognize the opportunity that has presented itself.
In support of you,
P.S. This skill building is a big part of what we’re up to in the Opening the Communication group coaching program. We’ve had our first session, but it’s not too late to join, and I’m feeling called to help one more family with this program. Is that you? Let’s chat and see if it’s a fit!