Seting boundaries in your parenting is just as important as learning to set clear, kind boundaries in all of your relationships.
Even before I started this blog I was obsessed with parenting. I read as many books as I could get my hands on while I was pregnant. Like most clueless well-intentioned first time parents, my husband and I thought we could do it all.
You and I both know that parenting requires a level of self-awareness and patience that is challenging, ADHD or not.
The problem is compounded by the pressure to appear like you have it all together all the time.
At some point you have to stop trying to be a perfect parent, and start setting some boundaries for your children.
Here are the benefits of setting boundaries in your parenting:
Boundaries set expectations
When he was young, I spent so much time trying to coax and coddle my son that he started to think he should be rewarded for doing the right thing. It was a lot like training a puppy, I’d give him a treat every time he peed in the potty.
Parenting experts disagree on the role of rewards in the development of social-emotional skills in children. But I can tell you that for us, small rewards have to be carefully considered and frequent.
For example, at school my son has a behavior chart. As long as he is respectful with adults and his peers all day he gets 15 minutes of iPad time at the end of the day.
The reward is frequent, attainable, and small enough that he isn’t being over rewarded for his behavior.
If you keep the expectations very clear, you won’t have as much room for argument.
Boundaries create security
I was an insecure child who never felt like I belonged anywhere. Sometimes I forget that my son knows nothing but love and approval. Even when he makes mistakes we talk about them and work it out.
E has no problem being argumentative and disrespectful. He is not afraid of being abandoned or ignored by his parents.
Children feel more secure when they know what to expect. If you are consistent with your daily and weekly routines, you won’t have to repeat yourself or explain why you are doing what you are doing.
Their behavior will be more impulsive if they don’t know what the limits are and they don’t know what to expect.
This rule applies to older kids, too. When I taught 9th grade emotional support students, they were better prepared and more cooperative when they knew how the day would flow and what I expected at each transition point.
Punishments and Threats don’t work
Some kids with ODD and other related diagnosis can be perceived as defiant, disrespectful, and argumentative.
My son certainly can*** come off this way in certain contexts.
My child wants to control everything. He wants to argue over who is arguing. (“I’m not arguing.” “You are arguing about not arguing!”)
Everything is a power struggle. There is no easy way to redirect, correct, or even calm.
You know what works waaaaay better than threatening to take away his devices?
Humor. No joke. Sometimes I imitate him when he is being argumentative and then we all start laughing.
I still tell him I love him and do all the “mom” things. I am just not engaging in arguments and threatening to punish him.
If I do take away a device I simply tell him to give it to me, and then I tell him when he will have it back.
You don’t need to intimidate, or get loud, to make your point.
***Remember it’s totally ok in the heat of the moment to tell your child, ” I’m going to think about the consequences and get back to you.” ***
The Bottom Line on boundaries
I am done pretending that I have all the answers.
Obviously, I care about parenting and I will continue to write and learn about being the best parent I can be while working within my personal limitations.
I have reviewed The Explosive Child and Raising Human Beings. Ross Green, PhD is the best!
I also highly recommend Why Won’t Anyone Play With Me, by Caroline Maguire. (Affiliate links above. Please see my full disclosure)
Setting boundaries in your parenting is important for the same reasons boundaries are important in our adult lives.
Setting expectations, communicating clearly, and controlling our impulses is difficult.
And it doesn’t get any easier as a parent with ADHD. It actually gets harder because you are now responsible not only for yourself, but for the development of your children.
Do yourself and your children a huge favor and consider setting some boundaries around your parenting. You can thank me later.
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I bring together brilliant ADHD women to manage our emotions, tell our stories, and create the changes that lead to calmer, more satisfying lives with ADHD.
2 comments on “Setting Boundaries In Your Parenting”
Hi Liz! I’m not sure when you wrote this, but I’m going to respond anyway. See, I believe I also have ADHD and I have a son who has been diagnosed with it. His twin and older brother seem to be borderline ADD, and my husband has it for sure. As your other article was titled, it does indeed run in the family. My one son who has been diagnosed was always a handful. I was told shortly after his birth that he had “the devil in him.” As a Christian woman, I didn’t take kindly to that, but what my friend was trying to say was true. From the beginning he’s had control issues, horrible temper issues, and just plain nasty problems like back talk, sass, snottiness, and outright disobedience. It drove me to tears so many times because I just didn’t know how to reach him. You stated in this article that your son didn’t have a desire to learn good behavior. That was spot on! This was my son too. As the saying goes, I can lead a horse to water but I can’t make him drink. And my son was not no way, no how going to drink that water. By the time he got to kindergarten and he was in someone else’s care for a longer length of time than preschool, I was able to get my act together better. Still, kindergarten and first grade were awful discipline-wise. He got into so much trouble that he was kicked out of his first grade class. That’s when we decided to have him diagnosed. He’s on a non-stimulant medication now, which I hate to give him but without it he’s uncontrollable. What I’ve noticed with the medication is that he’s able to think through situations better. He’s more cognizant. He’s understanding the repercussions of things better, and he’s not getting into trouble anymore. Some of it may be because he’s almost eight now, a little older, but I think a lot of it is because of the medication and how it allowed the other parts of his brain to work more efficiently instead of being crowded out by mayhem. And it allowed me time to grow patience, compassion, and a greater understanding of how my son thinks. So this is the main reason I’m responding to you today…I want to tell you that it gets better. As a family, you will all get better, medication or not. Trust me, for the longest time we wondered if our son’s behavior was just because of his age and that boys can just be rambunctious. We didn’t want to believe something may be wrong and may need medical help. We finally gave it try and it’s has helped him tremendously, but I’m not advocating medicating your son at all. That’s a personal decision. But I do know that if you hang in there and not give up on him or your loving, patient parenting skills as he grows, your son is going to be the most awesome kid on the planet. It’s not about the medicine. It’s about love. Isn’t it? Thanks for advocating for families like ours. I’m happy to support your work. Blessings to you and your family.
Thank you so much for commenting during this busy time of year.
It’s funny how you say, “the devil in him.” My son was difficult from birth. I swear the nurses in the hospital didn’t even know how to handle him. My ADHD symtpoms sort of compound his. I grew up taking medication, in fact I asked my PCP about trying it again recently. In January we are doing a formal 3 hour evaluation to determine if my son has ADHD (or more). I suppose we will have to discuss medications after that point. It’s a tough decision. Isn’t being a mom the hardest thing ever?
I hope you’ll stick around. Did you get an invite to the Facebook group? We discuss our children all the time in there.