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I don’t know how to set boundaries.

My child doesn’t respect them. “No” doesn’t seem to work.

Does this sound familiar?

You try to give your kids some guidance, because you don’t want to let them do whatever they want. You explain what they shouldn’t do. You try to do it calmly. You don’t want to yell. But what are you supposed to do the 50th time you have to say, “Don’t climb up there,” and they do it again a few minutes later?

You’ve probably tried these things:

Explaining. Negotiating. Asking why they are doing it. Being more strict. Forbidding things. Maybe giving a spanking. But it just seems to get worse? You don’t want to be the bad guy, but they act like little troublemakers? And when you say, “Don’t do that,” or, “I won’t buy you that,” they either completely ignore you or scream until they get their way?

And maybe you aren’t always sure what you should allow and what you should not?

Is it okay to let them have breakfast in the living room or watch another episode of their show? You try to be consistent, even though you sometimes give in, and your child instantly latches on and demands another episode and another one. Sound familiar?

In the Unparenting course, we take a different approach. Here’s how it will help you with boundaries:

Week 3

We spend one of the five weeks of the course talking all about boundaries — how to figure out what boundaries are right for you. How to set them up. How to show your boundaries to your children so they understand and respect them.

Unlike other parenting approaches, Unparenting uses internal boundaries based on your own needs, those of your child, and your particular situation. And that’s why they work.

You’ll learn a simple three-step technique called Keep It Real that will help you find your internal boundaries. That way you’ll know what you should allow your child to do and when you should say no so things don’t get out of hand. And you’ll be able to work it out with your children without a fuss. We’ll show you how. 

We’ll also talk about how to tell your children no with calm self-confidence when you can’t or don’t want to allow something, in a way that will help them hear you and take you seriously. We’ll go over how to say a kind but firm no that will carry a different weight with your children than the ones you’ve said before. 

We’ll also discuss what to do when your child responds to your boundary with tears, anger or obstinacy. We’ll look at specific examples about what to do about it.

You’ll learn how to stand your ground and stick to your boundaries yet remain sensitive toward your children and not lash out at them. We have a simple, carefully designed communication technique to help you do that. You can use it in any emotionally charged or difficult situation.

Then you’ll be able to get through tough moments without yelling that you’ll later regret. And your children will start responding to your new attitude with their own: calmer and more accommodating.

It even works on kids labeled as “unmanageable.”

You’ll hear about what boundaries children need most when they’re misbehaving and why commands and orders will never work on them. You’ll learn to set a new type of boundaries with them so they’ll stop testing to see what you will tolerate and start respecting your natural authority.

If you have a baby or toddler:

The course includes a special Expansion for Parents of Little Ones, where we give specific examples of how to apply all this with a very young child who isn’t talking yet.

You will learn how to show your boundaries to your little one in a way they can understand, which will let you avoid unnecessary scenes and misunderstandings. You’ll be able to work things out together, like where it’s not okay to climb, what it’s not okay to touch, or whatever other situation arises.

How parents are doing with boundaries after finishing the course:

I have to say that I always thought my daughter was a total wild child. She was so opinionated even as a little baby, and for me as a less assertive sort of person, that could get pretty tough.

Then Unparenting came along. I guess my little girl should have taught me to say what I need. Things have been going great since then. My daughter is incredibly helpful and puts so much energy into contributing to the family.

Sometimes I can’t believe what a full-fledged member of the family she is at just 20 months old. I think she’s reflecting the way we help each other out. When we treat her as a partner, she wants to cooperate.

Before Unparenting I felt lost. I wasn’t certain which way I should go or where I wanted to lead my son. I didn’t have much support from people around me, and I didn’t know how to ask for it. It was all very new, and I didn’t have anyone to ask questions of or model my parenting on, and the advice I did get was pretty terrible. My little one didn’t sleep much, and I realized that I have a certain boundary past which I can’t function due to fatigue.

Unparenting helped me learn to tune in to myself, my son and my partner. Watch, listen and talk. It helped me realize that I have the right to my own boundaries. I’m learning to express my needs and listen to the needs of others. I’m learning to look for solutions that work for everyone. I know I’m not always right and things don’t always have to go my way. I also know that nobody is always right and that we all create a good atmosphere together — it’s not all up to me.

I’ve learned to ask for help and cooperation. I’m learning to suggest solutions instead of insisting on them at any cost. I’m learning to be kind to myself, to stop and recharge before I run down completely. I consider why I feel like saying no, and sometimes I change my mind. And I’m learning to respect it when someone else says no, to understand their reasons, and to not take it personally. I know how to just be there with my son (sometimes) without rushing around wanting to do something else. Just to be there with him, doing what he wants to do. We can even get through tricky situations together (I say “we,” although in the past, I would have said “I” — but now we’re a team, which is a pretty major change, because I always used to act on my own).

My son is responding great to the change. We are doing well together. When something goes wrong, it’s over quickly, and then we’re back to normal. I’ve got solid ground under my feet and a compass pointing straight in the direction that will make us happy together.

I just finished listening to the few first sessions and figured out the source of the problems we’ve been having in the last month. My son is 14 months old, and since birth I’ve treated him with respect and wonder at what an amazing creature he is, and everything had been going great. Around his first birthday, he started expressing himself (in his own way) and wanting to explore the world more and more.

It made me nervous, and subconsciously I started to think that I should set boundaries because it’s not okay for him to just do whatever he wants. In many ways, I went from a respectful parent to a “Teacher” and even “Police” when I was at the end of my rope. In any case, I wasn’t being much of a “Unparenting mom.” I was forcing my own ideas on him about how he should act and respond.

And he started acting out and didn’t want to cooperate with me. So I was thinking that this is what we get for having let him do whatever he wanted, so now he’s out of control. (Writing that, I realize that this is exactly what my great-grandmother told my mother when I was little. They argued about it often.)

After finishing the “child’s-eye-view” story, I thought back to the situations where my son has been difficult recently, and they were always ones where I was acting like a “Teacher” or “Police.” Then I thought about times he’d been great and I’d had a good time, and those were ones where I was acting like a “Unparenting mom.” I can’t wait to spend the day together again tomorrow, because now I see things through different eyes.

I signed up for the course to find some trick to get him to stop throwing tantrums and do what I want (yes, that’s the honest truth — even though I told myself I wanted to understand him better, I really wanted him to understand me and do what I need him to do). And I got what I came for in the first few minutes.

I finally realized (or remembered) that I should follow my instincts and ignore other people’s scare stories, and mainly I should trust that my child knows what is best for him, so we can work things out together in a way that works for all of us. And that is possible even at that age, as I have seen many times for myself. I just didn’t realize it on a conscious level until now.

My success stories are mostly on a personal level so far. Most of all, the fact that I can say that this is okay for me and this makes me feel uncomfortable. My children are responding to it as well, since finally they have a mother who isn’t always hesitating and uncertain about what they can and can’t do, as they usually got their own way regardless of how I felt about it.

So finally things are getting back in hand. When I say that I’m not comfortable letting him play with a mower to cut the grass on his own, then I’m not paralyzed with doubt that maybe I should let him try it out (so I don’t rob him of some important life experience) or gripped by fear and anxiety.

I stand my ground, express my concerns, ask if there’s another way to do it, and he might be mad for a bit, but five minutes later he’s forgotten about it and doesn’t try it again. You have no idea how much better I feel!

I’m still at the beginning of my transformation, but I would say a success story is how I’ve started speaking for myself more often: what I want, what I need, etc. I feel better because I’ve stopped saying things like, “You can’t do this,” and, “That’s not how it’s done,” which I never really understood very well myself because they didn’t make sense to me. :)

In some situations, I feel more firm and confident — those are my internal boundaries that I don’t want to cross, and I let my children know that. One positive thing I see is that I’m learning to see my child as a teammate who has something to say about the situation and with whom I can always work things out. I think that’s going to be of great benefit in the coming years.

We try to work out the daily schedule with our kids. Homework used to take all afternoon, and then they still had things to finish up after 8 p.m. Now our son comes home from school, puts his things away, and plays on his phone for half an hour, then gets his homework done within half an hour. It works.

The school counselor had wanted to meet with my son (10) and us parents. Then I saw the Unparenting workshop where they talked about assuming responsibility. And how did it go? Once our son started doing better at school and stopped forgetting things (since mom and dad passed the responsibility over to him), his teacher and school counselor ended up canceling the scheduled session. :)

I’m really pleased that even though we’re at the beginning of the course, we already have a better relationship. I don’t have to yell or repeat myself, and sometimes my kids pitch in with housework since I’m at work.

It’s all seemed to come together this week. I stopped struggling with my kids, I know what I want, and everything is working. The kids listen to my needs, respond to them, and work with me. I feel at home in their world, and I enjoy being with them here and now. It’s an incredible game changer for me.

What now?

Look at other topics you’re interested in and keep on exploring the course.