I’ve blogged and podcast previously about boundaries, so I’m hoping by now you understand my stance on how utterly important it is for us as women to honour our boundaries. I think if there were one tactic that has the potential to be life changing and relationship-altering, it would be the ownership of your boundaries.
Yet, so may of us waver in the face of maintaining and repairing our boundary walls. We know we’ve missed a “boundary maintenance service” when we find ourselves in cranky, yelling mum mode.
We’re yelling because we’re stressed, we believe we have no other option. We feel powerless against whoever or whatever we’re fighting and so we regain our power by yelling and threatening.
But there is another way, it just requires a commitment from you, for you.
The maintenance of boundaries requires limit setting for our children. Limits are those invisible guidelines you set for your household in order for it to work optimally. Limits will be different for all of us, but ultimately they are the “house rules” that have you and everyone in the house feeling respected, heard and loved.
For me, my boundaries include speaking expressively but without rudeness, a regular and predictable bedtime, eating meals together, tidying the house together, care of the family pets, care for and of the house and household items, etc.
Children who constantly whine, ask for the same thing repetitively or test the same boundary are seeking clarity. There is a level of uncertainty and with uncertainty comes anxiety, because the boundary is not clear; history would likely dictate that the limit has not been consistent.
Sometimes its been a “yes” and sometimes its been a “no” and sometimes its just been plain unclear!
Perhaps you’re tired, perhaps you’ve worked all day and you’re feeling guilty about how much time you’ve spent with the kids, perhaps you can’t deal with the fall out of a “no”, perhaps you’ve wavered on the limit…there are any number of reasons we don’t commit to a limit and I’m not here to admonish you for any of this – Lord knows, I’ve done all of these.
The problem with this dynamic is that ultimately if your limits are not clear, or you avoid setting them or following through on them, children will constantly test you, because they are uncertain. If our limit/s are not in place, neither are our boundaries and this is when we end up feeling out of control, anxious, overpowered and yelling. The cycle all starts with limits.
Limits allow you and your children to relax into a flow together. No one is anxious as we move about our day because we know what to expect and what is expected of us. Therefore, we find our spaciousness and the yummy, juiciness of love flows effortlessly in these situations. Children are naturally cooperative and when they are not stressed or anxious they will generally honour a limit with minimal to no fuss.
At times we can feel like we don’t have the resources to handle the fallout from owning and maintaining our “no”. We as parents can begin to fear our own limits because we can’t handle the tears or the fallout of what happens after “no” is said. I have compassion for this, sometimes its just plain easier to go with the path of least resistance and get through your day, sometimes we just don’t have the spaciousness to handle it.
The problem with avoiding a fallout, is that limits offer an opportunity to release pent-up feelings within our children. You know that anxiety, that dread, that tension you are feeling in your body right at the moment your child is testing your boundary?
That is them setting you up to feel what they are feeling.
Your child is your mirror, if you can take a moment to lean into the sensations within your body, you will notice they are an exact representation of how your child is currently feeling, but unable to express like you as an adult can.
So. When we run from these feelings they don’t disappear, they just store up. Sure, we can soothe or numb ourselves from them in the moment, but the actual experience of them will bubble up again until it is expressed and released.
This is where limits come in for our children (and ourselves!). Limits offer our children the impetus for release. It’s the broken cookie phenomenon – the reaction looks like an overreaction, but really it was never about the cookie. The cookie was just 'the straw that broke the camels back'; the catalyst to release stored up feelings and it is the ‘backlog’ of feelings being expressed you’re seeing – it was never about the cookie.
The ability to hit a boundary wall that our kids can’t ‘get around’, offers them a loving wall that says:
“hey, I see you’ve got something going on here and I’m willing to hold that space for you to feel into”
In this situation our child has no distraction from the uncomfortable feelings inside them and instead has an opportunity to lean in to the uncomfortable feelings.
Moving feeling’s like this are very cathartic and will result in a child that ‘resets’ and comes back into balance with themselves and the family unit. Stuck feelings that are given nowhere to ‘land’ or move to will ultimately become destructive and will result in non-desirable behaviour and sleeping patterns in our children.
Children don’t often have the capacity to re-set emotionally without a release. This release can come in play and laughter and movement, or it can come in tears and raging and in order for tears to begin, there needs to be a catalyst. This catalyst is often a “no”, a limit set by a parent or caregiver and it creates the opportunity for our children to release the pent-up feeling’s they have stored up.
In these situations we don’t need to fix anything, we just need to honour that we witness what they’re feeling and its okay for them to have that feeling. It doesn’t mean we need to change the limit, but we’re here to hear the heartache and the frustration within them – because we’ll want to hear about the heartache and frustration when they’re teenagers won’t we?
This is holding space for our children and when we do that, we are also holding space for these emotions within ourselves. It’s pretty powerful this parent-child dynamic.
So I want you to think of your boundaries and the upholding of them, as honouring of both you and your children. The emotions felt when we are willing to hold them in place are just as healing as when we fully own our “yes”.
To love more of your full spectrum and to hold more spaciousness for emotions within ourselves and our children, join us for Aligned Parenting – a 2-week online immersive in the parent-child dynamic and how to be the anchor in what can sometimes feel like chaos!
WHAT YOU'LL LEARN:
Module 1 - Emotional Evolution
Learn the basics of secure attachment, respectful, emotionally-attuned parenting and the profound nature of the dynamic we have with our children to facilitate mutual growth. Understand what happens when we're 'too attached' or over-supportive of our children and what 'dis-regulated' states in our children and ourselves look and feel like and how to find balance again.
Module 2 - Mirror Magic
Your child's behaviour is never separate from your own, and the parts of them that trigger you the most, embody the greatest learnings about yourself and your childhood story. Learn how to find the wisdom in wounds your child is calling you into, so you can parent from a place of authenticity, rather than guilt, shame or blame.
Module 3 - Functional Dysfunction
The 'perfect, peaceful family' is an illusion. A family needs both 'war' and 'peace' within it to grow, just like we need to both support and challenge ourselves and our children to grow. Gain an understanding of your own unique family dynamic and find a new sense of gratitude for those who push your buttons, so you can empower yourself, and love more of your family, just as they are.
Module 4 - Play The Universe
Unlock the higher order of the 'guilts' that plague your motherhood and empower yourself with playful parenting principles to create freedom and joy in your relationships with your children. Implement tools to teach empathy and resilience in your children, and by extension, your own inner child, re-patterning your experience and transforming your reality.
Julie Tenner is Co-founder of Nourishing The Mother and is The Pleasure Nutritionist. Julie is a Naturopath, specialising in women’s and children's health, with specific focus on awakening women to their full potential – health for the mind, body and soul – creating lasting life change for you and your family by “coming home” to your magnificence.