Healthy Relationship Boundaries – what are they and how can they help? [Adult – child/teen]

Do you ever watch television and see children yelling at their parents?  Or in the shops, children or teenagers disrespecting others?  How did this happen?  Unfortunately for many of our younger generations they have never seen people being respected such as I did when I was a young girl.  In those days you would rarely ever have seen a child or teenager backchat a parent or teacher, and if you did there were consequences – such as the cane at school or a smack or wooden spoon at home or even at the shop. *

Unfortunately as a teacher who first began teaching in schools twenty years ago then came back into the traditional classroom many years later – the changes were like stepping into another world.  In Australia and the UK and I imagine at least most of the Western world, it is expected that students will rebel and even our television soaps teach our kids stereotypes of rebelling, experimentation, and underage and premarital sexual relations as the norm.  I myself only learned that these were only one option, and not the norm as I had seen in my high school and on evening soaps, in my twenties.

It is not all doom and gloom though, there are many youth who are also stepping up and not accepting the behavior of their peers and who are determined to show the world how passionate and impacting they are thus balancing the sometimes general perception in the west of youth as disrespectful and ungrateful.

Even as recent as a year ago I was teaching in a faith school and the students sometimes would salute me, as a disciplinarian.  I definitely don’t see my style as disciplinarian however sometimes when starting off at a new school and even with a new class, the teacher can add benefits by really setting the standards high – in terms of classroom behavior, classwork and homework policies.   This did pay dividends for me and my students and even the teacher assistants loved my class as real learning was taking place in an inclusive and supportive atmosphere.

So how have I set these standards as a teacher?  Often I have workshopped the rules and expectations with the students first and they always end up with the two ‘R’s – Respect and Responsibility.  That is respect and responsibility for yourselves, for your and others’ property and also for the group.  Many people don’t seem to include the latter but if students understand teamwork and how one student can ruin it for the remainder, the atmosphere is better all around and a valuable lifelong lesson learned. In a primary school setting, an example would be where a few students playing up thus slowing down the lesson and allowing no time for the whole class to play an outside game (usually the class favourite pastime).  Earlier this year I had a few girls in a state primary school class repeatedly disrupting the class.  I spoke to each individually and explained how their behavior had affected the remainder of the class and for them to think about how the class had been looking forward to outside activity.  They had an option to apologise to the class for letting them down and have the class decide if they would accept the apology as sincere and decide a fitting consequence.  Each student chose this option and the impact was dramatic.  The class accepted all bar one of the apologies (not always the first time!) and of course said that the student had suffered enough with the disappointment and in-class isolation during lesson from their peers.

If either as a parent or teacher, you  choose to go down this road I suggest you look up some strategies and even some theories such as the theory of bumps, behavior management and classroom strategies.  Many parents recommend the PPP parenting principles which can make a huge difference if one is consistent and yet combines this with some flexibility.

From another perspective, it is also written that if we teach our children the right ways they will not easily deviate from the path.  One amazing mentor of mine these days is a woman called Dani Johnson.  She has an amazing story and realized that what she thought were her own developed, logical steps to success in every area of your life were actually based on those Biblical principles she had learned as a teen.  Basic principles for life such as honesty, respect, trustworthiness, and doing your best.  Definitely not rocket science and yet so many of us choose to do what is right in our own eyes no matter the affect on others and then wonder later, “What went wrong?”

If you are interested in resources, please email me as I have many recommendations. One book series I highly recommend is that written by Warren Chapman, entitled ‘The Five Love Languages’.  The series has these books for relationships, children, teens, even singles and also includes work books.  The strategies suggested here are very different than those traditionally advocated in more mainstream child/teen relationship books especially for parents and educators.  Yet I have had much success with them especially when more traditional methods have not worked.

Finally I strongly believe that if you can love your children enough to discipline them, they will benefit for the rest of their lives.

*  I am not advocating violence however from experience if alternate strategies are not working, a good old fashioned smack for effect (not hard) can do wonders!

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