If you’re here, you are probably trying to figure out family boundaries. How to keep and enforce the rules in your home for the good of your whole family. If that’s you, glad you stopped by!
(Last week I talked about what happens when we don’t keep the rules… catch up on that here first.)
This thing started happening at the dinner table.
When the kids didn’t like what I’d prepared… they told me so.
At first I was okay with this. A polite, “I don’t really like mushrooms” is not offensive to me. It’s just your preference and none of us can control our kids’ preferences.
However, that soon morphed into prolonged whining about dinner on nights they didn’t like what I made.
It went from saying, “This isn’t my favorite” to whining on and on about how they wanted something else or I should have separated the corn or couldn’t they just have buttered bread?!?!?
Give an inch, they’ll take a mile, came to mind.
Then, boy howdy, I started getting mad.
I was like…
“Oh no, kids, y’all ain’t gonna complain about the dinner that I BOUGHT and I COOKED and YOU DID NOTHING FOR but need to survive!“
So then I made a rule: anyone who whines and complains at dinner has to leave the table.
This did not go down well on a few fronts.
- I felt it was too harsh so I didn’t actually follow through consistently.
- When I actually did follow through, the kids wailed in their rooms out of hanger (and the noise disturbed us all).
- At dinner, I began to feel powerless and out of control because – if they didn’t like it – now we had a power battle on our hands.
I was having to Police this rule I didn’t even like and the kids were trying to keep the rule by crying silently at the table (bless them) instead of loudly whining because they didn’t want to get sent away. It made for miserable dinners.
How To Keep Your Family Boundaries & Rules
So now that you’ve seen how I failed… let’s talk about how to succeed in keeping family rules and boundaries. As Dave Ramsey says… success is just standing on top of a pile of failures instead of under it.
We’ll get into how to create rules for the good of the whole family, and be able to keep them without resorting to bribery, threats, and yelling. None of us want to be angry moms.
So let’s dive in…
Don’t Have Unnecessary Rules
I’ve touched on this before, but it bears repeating.
Because unnecessary rules feel forced, you won’t end up enforcing them. (me)
It doesn’t matter what your neighbor, sister-in-law, mom, or I do in our own homes… if it’s a rule you don’t actually care about then ditch it. If at some future point you DO care about it, then you bring it in. Rules and boundaries in the home are fluid.
They’ll change with seasons, houses, ages, and maturity.
Diagnose Your Doors And Walls
In Sandy’s Language of Listening®book, she goes into this in more detail. But let’s briefly address it here.
When you want to go from your bedroom to the bathroom… you use the door. If you tried to get to the bathroom through the wall what would happen? You’d hit the wall.
This is how we want our rules to be: like walls.
If we have a rule that’s really a door, the kids will walk through it day and night. Why? Because it’s open. It’s a path that allows them to go where they want. If your rule is a wall, however, they might test it here or there, but they’ll stop trying to go through it.
They’ll eventually understand… it’s not a path that’s going to get them anywhere.
Figure Out Why You’re Not Keeping The Rules
It’s not just our kids’ jobs to keep the rules. It’s our job to enforce them! I talked about that in this post.
So if we’ve got rules we’ve made that we do not enforce and the kids ignore… it’s time to do some diggin’.
Ask yourself these types of questions:
- Do I actually like this rule?
- What happens when I need to enforce this rule that makes me not want to bother?
- Is there another way (aside from this rule) that I can teach the kids what I want them to learn?
Odds are, if you’re not enforcing a rule then likely (a) you don’t like it, (2) it’s a door, not a wall for you, or (d) you’re fuzzy as to what’s your actual boundary in this matter. Refer to this post to figure out what your *actual* boundary is… these will definitely be walls for you!
Please tell me you know where a, 2, d comes from…
Tackle One Rule At A Time…
Do you identify with the following?
- The kids aren’t quite sure what the rules are.
- You feel like the house is chaos and nobody does what you want.
- You aren’t quite sure yourself what all the rules are or *should* be.
- You have a sense that you don’t have the authority in your parenting you’d like.
- You’re kinda bitter and resentful at the kids who don’t seem to get it.
If these are you then you’re in the right place. We’ve all been there at one time or another. In fact, we can have very excellent rules in one area and be struggling in another.
No one has life all wrapped up.
So if you need to begin bringing an area in your home under control, start small.
Start with one rule.
This rule may already exist and you don’t enforce it OR it may be a brand new rule you want to bring into the home (make sure it’s a wall, not a door!).
When this rule becomes second nature and you have no problem standing that ground, then go for another one.
So the dinner table saga…
One evening I lay in bed wondering how I was raising ungrateful, spoiled, picky, dramatic eaters.
Melodrama is high at 9:30 p.m. for me.
Then I touched on something… I thought about the real reason this behavior bothered me deep down.
I got to my wall.
I care very much that our dinnertimes are remembered fondly where we shared stories, laughed, connected, and made memories. When one child is whining or complaining or blah blah all through the meal… the thing I hate is this…
Dinnertime being hijacked.
If no one can talk or enjoy dinner because of one person’s shenanigans then I’m ticked. That’s my wall. You can feel how you feel and we can help you, etc. but you can’t disrupt everyone else’s dinner.
And the beautiful part about that is this… when you reach your wall then there’s not so much drama. You don’t have to feel so frustrated and anxious and upset. That behavior that was making you nuts?
Now… you just won’t have it.
But instead of having to scream or issue threats… you are calm and collected. You feel in control and you know you have authority. And when you feel like this… you end up with lots of ideas on how to make that happen.
You don’t feel as desperate. And from that place, you are primed for success!
Other posts in this series…
- What Happens When You Let Your Kids Bend The House Rules
- 5 Calm Responses For When Your Child Digs Their Heels In