You remember the children’s story about Goldilocks and the Three Bears. This little girl was playfully skipping through the woods when she came upon a cabin. She looked through the windows and around the cabin, finding no one to be at home. The door was unlocked, so she went inside. It was about lunchtime and she found bowls of porridge on the kitchen table. Since no one was there to stop her, she helped herself. Of the three bowls she tasted, one was too hot, one too cold, and one just right.
The process of setting boundaries for your child has a bit of the Goldilocks story in it. They need to be just right in order for your child to grow in security, worth, and responsibility.
Mom meant well when she dressed 7 year old Jody to go outside and play. She layered her clothes, lathered her with sunscreen, and gave her a laundry list of what she could do and not do in the yard with her friends. As soon as Jody wiggled from her mama’s grasp and ran outside, she jumped into a mud puddle, got wet and filthy, and ruined her play clothes. That earned her a spanking, a bath, and quiet time in her room.
Mom’s boundaries for Jody were too strict. At Jody’s age, mom could have asked what she thought she should wear and do outside today. Take her suggestions, active listen her feelings, and problem-solve with wise counsel. Jody may have known what to do, but with her mom’s overparenting, Jody’s response was a resounding “I’ll show you!!”
Seven year old Tim’s mom handled the same situation differently. “Mom, I’m going outside to play with my friends.” “Okay, son,” his mom called out from her computer where she was paying bills. “Just be careful and be back for dinner.” Tim’s mom’s boundaries were too lenient, giving him too much responsibility and putting him in charge of his actions. This underparenting is a recipe for anxiety, insecurity, and limit-testing.