Why You Should Set Boundaries In Your Parenting

Why You Should Set Boundaries In Your Parenting

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.

[bctt tweet=”The other day I lost my sh-t, along with my pride and any sense of parenting superiority. http://wp.me/p60iCk-rn” username=”HealthyADHD”]

I stopped trying to be the perfect parent and I started to understand why you should set boundaries in your parenting.

The Back Story

It all started the night before. I told my son to turn off his holiday movie and he proceeded to stomp and call me mean.  He yelled at my husband, too.

I went in his room with him, deciding that he was too worked up to take a bath and I offered to put some lotion on his eczema. I tried to talk with him about managing Big Feelings. Emotional regulation has become a theme in our house lately.

As I became more frustrated with his lack of interest, I told him, “what the adults want is more important than what you want.”

This sounds harsh, but I was tired of collaborating. I was tired of trying to get him to see the way his behavior affects other people. Tired of trying so damn hard to be an authoritative parent.

I wanted to break through. I wanted my son to know how I was feeling.

The next morning everything was good until it was time to leave the house. E noticed it was wet outside from rain the night before and wanted to take his umbrella to school.

I explained that his school does not allow umbrellas. I suggested that he carry it into childcare and then keep it in the car. My husband even tried to reason with him.

As the minutes ticked by I decided to go downstairs and put on my coat. I allowed E to get in the car first before I got in. When I was buckling, he told me again that I was mean.  I turned around in my seat and said, “I am not going to fight with you.”

For about half a second he was silent and then he said, “well then I’m never going to be good in school because you are mean to me.”  He told me that he was going to deliberately misbehave.  After everything we have been through.

Have you ever felt like your own child had just punched you in the throat? He knew just what to say to hurt me.

Without thinking I opened his door and told him in my most controlled voice, “get out of my car.” I grabbed his back pack and ushered him in the door. I told him to tell his father to take him to school.

This is what I learned over the following days:

Setting Boundaries is important

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. Now I tell him he only gets a reward if he goes beyond the expectations. I am clear and kind with stating my expectations.

My son is aware now that I have limits to what I will tolerate. I love my child, but he is not allowed to abuse me.

My Child Is Secure

I was an insecure child who never felt like I belonged anywhere. Sometimes I forget that my son knows nothing but love and approval.

E has no problem being argumentative and disrespectful. He has no fear of being abandoned or ignored by his parents. No matter what he is always told how much he is loved.

This is my issue, not his.

My Child’s Behavior is Not a Result of Poor Parenting

He knows his behavior is inappropriate, yet he has no desire to understand how it affects other peopIe. I have tried every trick in my book. I have read everything, and tried everything. Now I am going to let professionals tell me what needs to be done.

I have exhausted my emotional resources so I am getting help. I do not doubt that I am a good parent because preserving my own mental health makes me a better parent.

Punishments and Threats don’t work

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. Everything adults say is rejected outright as mean.

I still tell him I love him and do all the “mom” things. I am just not engaging in arguments.

My Child Needs the limits

For so long I have repressed my growing sadness and rage about what is going on with my son. I have tried played therapy, occupational therapy and anxiety medication. (For me.)

Guess what? Holding it all in and modeling the behavior I want to see has basically gotten me nowhere. My son is still acting out at home and at school.

The Bottom Line on My Parenting

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.  I love Ross Green, PhD.

Dr. Green if you are reading this you are welcome in my home anytime. But be warned: you will share a bathroom with the 6-year-old you are here to counsel.

I have no idea if my ADHD caused my meltdown this week. But in some ways, I am grateful. I feel more myself than I have in a long time. I still want to work on self-improvement, which includes parenting.

The theme of this website for 2017 will be Self Improvement.   So now I want to hear from you.

Have you ever had a lightbulb moment with parenting?


How do we set healthy boundaries with our children?


Tell me your meltdown story – if you are feeling honest.

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  • Gina Gardner

    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.

  • Liz

    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.