What This Is Like from Your Perspective


You have so much on your plate and NO. EXTRA. ENERGY to spare. So when you need to set a boundary but you know your child is going to have a big reaction…

…When your child asks for extra time at bedtime and you know if you say no they’ll have a huge tantrum (and prolong bedtime)

…When your child asks you to buy them something at a store and you know they’ll make a scene if you don’t buy it

…When you told your child to clean up and they didn’t and you know that bringing it up again will lead to a power struggle…

You simply don’t have it in you to fight those battles, so you end up giving in.


What This Is Like from Your Child’s Perspective

Children want to stay up later. They want to have fun rather than do “boring things.” And they don’t instinctively think about the consequences of their behavior.

They crave what feels good, and if they think there’s a chance you might give in (because you have in the past), they get even more upset when you don’t give in this time. 

When they hear that they can’t get an extra bedtime story (even though they have before), they’re going to throw a tantrum.

When they know that when that their in-store meltdowns have gotten them what they wanted before, they’re going to meltdown when you say no.

When they know that they sometimes get to use their devices for longer but today you’re saying they can’t, their frustration will be huge.

When children know that SOMETIMES you are flexible, they will push harder and harder to make this time another time that you’ll give in and give them what they want.



How It Usually Goes

When Kids Get Upset When We Enforce a Boundary

Scenario:  It’s evening, and it’s Naomi’s night to take out the trash. Naomi’s mom notices that the trash isn’t out and that Naomi is watching a TV show. 

Mom: Naomi, it’s time to take out the trash.

Naomi doesn’t respond. 

Mom (louder): Naomi, it’s trash night. Take the trash out!

Naomi (whining): Mom, I’m watching something!

Mom: I don’t care! It’s your job to take out the trash. You need to do it now. (She walks over to Naomi).

Naomi (yells): Mom, I’m RIGHT in the middle of something!

Mom: It’s just a TV show! You knew it was your trash night. You shouldn’t have started watching before you did that!

Naomi: Can’t you just let me do it AFTER? You’re so mean!

Mom: I’m not MEAN. I’m asking you to do what you’re supposed to do!

Naomi: Just this ONCE, Mom? Please? Can you do it? I promise to do it next time!!

Mom (exhausted, realizing that it will just be faster for her to take out the trash herself): Fine, I’ll take it out this ONCE. But next time, you’d better do it.


How It Could Go

When Kids Get Upset When We Enforce a Boundary

(That Leads to Better Long-Term Behavior)


Scenario:  It’s evening, and it’s Naomi’s night to take out the trash. Naomi’s mom notices that the trash isn’t out and that Naomi is watching a TV show. 

Mom: Naomi, it’s time to take out the trash.

Naomi doesn’t respond. 

Mom (walks over to Naomi): Hey kiddo. It’s time to take out the trash.

Naomi (whines): Can’t I finish watching?


Naomi’s mom would like Naomi to willingly do what she’s supposed to do. She also knows that if she focuses on that, she’ll lose her cool and the situation will go downhill quickly. So she focuses on keeping herself calm so she can model what she’d like to see in her daughter — that she can stay calm when things aren’t going the way she’d like them to.

Mom (firmly but not angrily): No, Naomi.

Naomi (yells): You’re so mean, Mom!

Mom: I know you’re right in the middle of watching something.

Naomi (interrupts): Why do I have to do it NOW??

Mom can tell that Naomi is in Yuck, so she doesn’t engage with her. 


Naomi’s mom doesn’t like Naomi’s responses. She also reminds herself that Naomi has a perspective too. She recognizes that Naomi is feeling frustrated and out of control, so she doesn’t try to overpower Naomi, which would make the situation worse.

Naomi (yelling): You always make me do EVERYTHING!

Mom doesn’t say anything. 

Naomi:  Can’t you just do it for me?

Mom: No. I’m sorry.

Naomi: You’re so MEAN!

Mom doesn’t say anything. 

Naomi: MOM! Stop ignoring me!

Mom knows Naomi is in Yuck, so she doesn’t respond. She knows not to take Naomi’s words personally or engage her when she’s in this place. 

With her mom standing firm and not engaging her further, after a few minutes Naomi starts to calm down.

Mom: You can keep watching as soon as you come back. I’ll keep your spot warm. Please go.


As much as Naomi’s mom respects her perspective, she does not give in. She knows that giving in now would only lead to more resistance every time she set a boundary in the future.

When she realizes her mom isn’t budging, Naomi goes to take out the trash.


Naomi’s mom doesn’t like how long it took Naomi to take out the trash, but she was that she was successful with what what was in HER control — that she stayed firm and respectful, regardless of Naomi’s behavior. She knows that next time, Naomi will know that she’s serious when she asks her to do something. 


What To Consider To Make This Work


In order to enforce boundaries effectively, it’s important for us to expect kids to have big reactions when they are faced with boundaries… and not get drawn into their big reactions.

It is possible — and necessary — to stay firm (not change your boundary) no matter what their response is.

The more exhausted and depleted you are, the harder this will be.

If this is consistently difficult for you, consider your own level of Yuck. For solutions, check out the Overcoming Overwhelm program or reach out to me.