“I find it hard to set boundaries with my child at home” How to make the child function independently with the parent around. How can I come up with a routine with my child and me?

Are you a parent/ caregiver and find it hard to set boundaries for your child during the pandemic? It could be setting boundaries and limits to their screen time or the number of toys/ chocolates they constantly ask/ throw a tantrum for. Having a fixed routine for you and your child while juggling work gets all the parents through your hectic schedule. The pandemic has been a difficult time on all of you parents. This could mean just giving into the child’s demands to try and get done with your work, thereby making it hard for you to set boundaries with your child.

What is a boundary-based discipline?

Boundary based discipline focuses on setting clear boundaries that the child is well aware of beforehand (“Setting limits for responsive discipline”, 2019). However, it is known that children have the tendency to test the limits to see how you will react. Once the child understands the boundaries set by you, they are less likely to disturb.

Boundary based limits:

  • Set boundaries with your child: Sit your child down and set boundaries with them so they can be part of the decision making process. It enables both of you to come to a common understanding. This helps the child feel that they are involved and part of the decision making process. For Example, you can use the phone for 15 minutes after which we can play with the car/dolls. 
  • Communication of boundaries: If your child is below 3 years of age, sitting your child down and setting boundaries can be challenging. However, this does not mean you cannot set them. You can communicate by explaining to them what is allowed and what is not. The tone in which you communicate the boundaries to the child must be a little firm. Not in a manner that they are scared of you. For example, you can use the couch to play with your toys but you are not allowed to use paints, sketch pens, markers etc on the couch. 
  • Setting routines: It is helpful that a set routine is maintained on a daily basis. Routines can help families organise themselves, spend time together and most importantly have fun. Every family may have their own unique routines. It helps know who should do what, when, in what order and how often. (Children should be involved in household chores).

For example, your family might have:

  • daily routines for work and school mornings, bath time, bedtime, mealtimes, greetings and goodbyes
  • weekly routines for housework, like washing and cleaning
  • other routines involving holidays and extended family get-togethers.

Family life is often smoother with a few routines, but there’s more to routines than this. Too many things should not be squeezed into a day and if the day does not go according to the routine change the mood and make it a little more light and fun as possible.

Routines also let your children know what’s important to your family. For example, really special routines are sometimes called rituals. These can help strengthen your shared beliefs and values and build a sense of belonging and togetherness in your family.

  • Spend time with your child: If as a parent you keep setting boundaries and limits for the child and do not spend time with them, you will be perceived as an authoritative figure for them, that makes the child want to test the limit and boundaries you set. They are looking to spend some quality time with you. For example, try to engage in conversations with your child and involve them while you cook a meal or clean the house.

Do try setting a routine and share your thoughts with us. If you have difficulty in setting a routine.

Time Task
8 am – 9 am Wake up, brush your teeth and have breakfast.
9 am – 9:45 am You can help me clean up the table and once you’re done, you can play by yourself with your toys while Ma/Pa will be working.
9:45 am – 10:30 am We can keep all the things you need for your online class ready and sit down for your online classes
10:45 am – 11:30 am We can clean up after your classes and put everything back in its places and play for a while. 
11:30 am – 2 pm You can help us/ the household help prepare lunch. 
2 pm – 3:30 pm Naptime 
3:30 pm – 4 pm Snack time / Milk time
4 pm – 6 pm Play time with your favourite toys / step out to play with your mother / step out to cycle with your father / go for a walk with your mother or father
6 pm – 7 pm Bath time
7 pm – 8 pm Getting ready for next day’s online classes / homework
8 pm – 8:30 pm  Screen time
8:30 pm – 9:30 pm  Dinner time
9:30 pm – 10 pm  Story time with any one of the parents
10 pm Bedtime

Note: This is a template of how a routine can be said. Timings and activities can vary.

Resources:Here are some wonderful children’s books that acknowledge the topics of boundaries with children

  • Clark the Shark by Bruce Hale
  • You’re Missing It! by Brady Smith and Tiffani ThiessenYou Get What You Get by Julie Gassman
  • Even Superheroes Have Bad Days by Shelly Becker
  • No More Naps by Chris Grabenstein, illustrated by Leo Espinosa

Reference:Setting limits for responsive discipline (2019), University of Minnesota Extension

by Shonalli Ponnappa, Special Educator and Ashwini HJ, Psychologist