Sunday, November 27, 2011

THE ENGAGEMENT OF RULES - Setting Up Rules and Boundaries

Children may have a set of rules and boundaries at their own homes…or not…but for OUR sanity and safety, and THEIRS, it makes sense to establish ground-rules early on. This goes for visits, car rides, plane trips, outings, and almost everything we do with our great-grandchildren.

Establishing rules and boundaries isn’t just “adult speak”. As soon as children have language, they can participate in the creation of safe and healthy boundaries. In order for them to be effective, children need to be involved. When it is appropriate, you can write everything down, and post it in a suitable place.

Around the kitchen are many tempting and hazardous opportunities. Justin, age 3, tries to turn the stove knobs. At that moment, one would need to intervene. However, afterwards, it’s helpful to talk with Justin and ask him what kind of rules there should be when he’s in the kitchen. If he’s not sure, help him understand why they are important. Later, or another time, ask him to repeat these to you. Soon you won’t have to remind him.

Emily and Sadie are sisters, both under 8 who are often in each other’s faces. Before they come to spend the day at your house, have a discussion about what they think should happen if one or the other starts a fight. Help guide them to a non-violent resolution, which hopefully can be implemented at the time a disagreement occurs. Remind them of the “rules” they set up, which may include using a timer for sharing, using non-hurtful words, and asking you to help mediate.

Children have so much going on in their lives, and sometimes, they just can’t abide by the rules, even if they made them. Occasionally, your great-grandchild will test you, ignoring the rules that they’ve helped establish. If you can keep your calm, try to support you great-grandchild’s angst, and at the same time, tell him/her that you expect the rules to be followed. Use this as their “warning”. If the problem persists, there is always the proverbial, non-violent “time-out”.

Holidays are a time when families get together and when rules are easily “forgotten”. It’s a good time to revisit the boundaries you and the great-grandchildren have set. Keep in perspective all of the hype and attention that surrounds us during this busy and stressful time. After all is said and done, the bottom line is that you and your family stay safe. Rules and boundaries help make that happen.

June & Laurie