Note: This post is geared toward behavior that is not directly tied to developmental issues such as sensory meltdowns due to Autism Spectrum Disorder.
- Have you missed out on important aspects of your family’s life to tend to your child’s tantrums because it was easier than dealing with the potential fallout?
- Have you accepted part of the blame for your child’s behaviors?
- Have you avoided negative issues that should be addressed with appropriate interventions out of fear of your child’s response?
- Are there areas where you have given your child more than one “last chance”? An important distinction is that this is a stuck place and NOT an area where “won’t” might need to be replaced with “can’t” or “area where additional support is needed. “
- Have you begun to feel that you’ve reached the end of your rope?
- Has the situation in your home reached a point that you have anxiety about being there?
- Are there other areas of your life where you feel “dread”? (A common one is dreading a the seemingly never-ending meltdown or the home where everyone is seemingly walking on eggshells.)
- Have you noticed growing resentments in other family members? A sense of others physically or emotionally distancing themselves from your child?
- Have you noticed an increase in negative behaviors?
Making the Case for Boundaries
We make boundaries with those who we LOVE in order to return to a LOVING relationship
Boundaries are lot lines. Boundaries give direction. Looking at a higher level, boundaries move from the property line to road maps. As boundaries become more solid, they allow for intelligent guidance that looks like a GPS or a map app that allows for avoidance of danger and delay.
Boundaries that are made in love (not revenge or to shame/punish) have the best interest of the child/family in mind and have consequences tied directly to the behavior of the child, not the emotions of the parents. They are tied to areas where the child has the capacity to make positive adjustments to behaviors to better navigate challenging environments. In other words, your child can succeed with support and gain a benefit that makes the world a little less challenging for everyone.
Violation of boundaries may result in the caregiver stepping back from the events so that everyone can reset but should never result in a loss of relationship…fine distinction that is everything to our high needs kids.
Boundaries bring security where lack of boundaries breed insecurity. In the beginning, boundaries might feel scary and awful and not loving at all. It will take baby steps at first but holding your ground with appropriate consistent, loving boundaries. This will usually take some pre-planning and often requires consistent support from other family members in close proximity.
While boundaries do not always serve to change the brain of a child with developmental disabilities, it will serve to help everyone involved to take a step back from high anxiety. The survival mode that emotional interactions create are a pretty stuck place.
A car stuck in mud where the driver hits the accelerator instead of pushing the car back to solid ground is a pretty good metaphor. The bad news in the short term is that your boundaries are like you pushing the car and their impulse is to hit the accelerator. Who is getting muddy and who is sitting in the car all clean and seeming to have their needs met through maladaptive choices?
Does that mean that you get in the car with them and hold their foot down on the accelerator? It may mean that you need to step back from the car and let them get it really stuck…or you may need to pull them out of the car before the situation becomes dangerous.
Establishing boundaries often results in painful battles that result in winning the war for freedom for everyone involved.