Today’s post is another installment in my How to Keep Your Kids Out of Counseling series. Actually, I think counseling is fabulous, but it’s just my catchy term for all my posts on emotional wholeness and well-being in children. Post contains affiliate links.
The infamous playground story goes like this.
The school yard had built a nice fence to separate the playground from the sidewalk and road. During PE and recess (when that existed) kid would play all over the place, many congregating near different areas of the fence.
A new strain of thought pervaded and, soon, they decided to take down the fence to give the children the sense of freedom. Instead of feeling walled in, they could feel free.
The result startled the school staff.
Instead of roaming wider and farther, as the space allowed, the students actually stayed closer to the school and were more crowded than before.
Kids feel insecure when they are in control.
They may seem chuffed to make all their own decisions, but there are negative consequences and they are not pretty.
“Children raised without firm, consistent boundaries are insecure and world-weary. Burdened with too many decisions and too much power, they miss out on the joyful freedom every child deserves.” Janet Lansbury
The good news is this… none of us really want our kids to be in control. We know that we – not them – know what’s best for them. Or at least, we try hard. We don’t want our kids to feel like King of the Castle with mommy the housemaid slaving away in a hot dungeon kitchen all day to make yummy soup they end up feeding to the dog we are trying to keep outside.
Ways we inadvertently make or kids feel insecure
We don’t give clear boundaries
Your kids need boundaries so they know what’s expected of them. Only then do they feel secure in their environment. It’s why most kids, when in public, stick close to their parents. They only venture off when they are safe and assured it’s okay. They want to stay near mommy because they don’t yet know their boundaries.
“Imagine driving over a bridge in the dark. If the bridge has no railings we will drive across it slowly and tentatively. But if we see railings on either side of us, we can drive over the bridge with ease and confidence. This is how a young child feels in regard to limits in his environment.” source
Our kids may occasionally roam around like wild and crazy animals – tempting us to buy them this leash – but that’s because children have a sense of security knowing we will tell them “too far is too far” or “enough is enough.”
We don’t regularly enforce boundaries then lose it All of a Sudden
Hear my confession, friends. At times, I am guilty of this. I let a few of our “rules” fall by the wayside because I’m busy keeping the baby out of the trash can or trying to go to the bathroom alone. A few days go by while I let small infractions go undisciplined and then, All of a Sudden, things have gone Too Far.
I get frustrated, yell, and bring down the house rules in full force, much to the dismay of my kids. This lack of boundary keeping makes them feel insecure because they get the idea the rules aren’t consistent. They aren’t sure when or when they won’t experience consequences for their actions. In fact, they don’t know what mommy will do at any given moment.
We don’t want them tiptoeing around us because they don’t know when we are going to lose our heads.
We let them do what they want all day
Now, I am a big fat fan of Free Play. I want my kids to roam around, get bored, think of creative games, and let their imagination run wild. In fact, I make a point to let them play instead of entertaining them. However, that doesn’t mean the kids decide exactly when, where, and for how long they’ll do it each day.
There has been no study ever showing that routine has negative effects on kids. There have been cajillions (scientifically speaking) of studies showing that routine provides security, stability, and predictability for kids. It can be hard for us adults who are like “for Pete’s sake, can’t we just do whatever we feel like?”
But, when you see the calm and contented behavior your kids display (most of the time, okay, they are not angels) you’ll see the direct link between acting out and lack of routine.
We aren’t consistent in meeting their needs
Kids want to know we will meet their basic needs: food, sleep, and love. Okay, there are a lot more, but for small children, their whole lives focus on those things. If they know when to expect food they don’t have to do magic tricks to get a cracker. They don’t have to cry and scream all night long from night terrors and overtiredness to get us to put them on a good sleeping routine.
Kids who are attached to their mothers and who regularly receive physical affection are, quite simply, more content. When we allow our children’s whims, moods, and momentary impulses to determine what we do, things start to get hairy. They feel “in control” but that doesn’t give them satisfaction and true security because they know, deep down, they do not understand what they need.
Sure, they know they want 15 marshmallows and fizzy for dinner, but that isn’t what’s good for them an hour later when their tummies hurt.
We give them too many choices
If we’re giving our kids multiple choices all day long they are getting decision fatigue. Laugh it up, but this is a thing. Even adults get decision fatigue, and it’s why those in high up positions wear the same clothes and eat the same breakfasts and lunch day in and day out. Because when we reach a certain point, our “decider” starts to malfunction.
As decision fatigue worsens, we don’t give a rip and make poor decisions. As the day goes on our “decider” starts to make us look dumber and dumber, and children are no different. We can give them choices to let them assert their own independence and personal flair, but too many will backfire on us.
Kids will fight for control, but they don’t really want it.
Kids will push the envelope when you create a boundary, but they want you to keep it.
Kids are learning to take charge of small things, don’t put them in charge of big things.
I’ve created a free email series just for you! If you have a little one aged 1 to 8, this series will help transform your home environment. No, that is not a joke or false claim. You can let your kids express their emotions without raising back talkers who meltdown at the drop of a hat or throw a tantrum every time they are unhappy with something. After this free email series:
- your child will stop throwing tantrums for attention
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- you’ll feel more in control of the atmosphere of your home and will be able to operate out of a place of love, not frustration
Click here to sign up for my free email series or simply click on the image below.
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