Setting boundaries and giving control

Creating clear, strong boundaries for our children is the partner to giving them as much control as possible. This may seem confusing, but this combination creates a very safe and well-defined environment for our special children, their siblings and for you. Even when we give our children as much control as possible that does not mean that they get everything they want, or do everything they want exactly when they want it. You are still the grown up who is in charge of your household, not the other way around.

I am defining the word “boundary” as a limit we create for our children that helps them both navigate and interact with their environment, and supports their overall health and well-being. For instance, one limit could be “Please do not jump with food in your mouth as you could choke.” Another is “You must be in your bed after 7 pm.” A boundary is something that stays the same and is consistently held.

Keep in mind that giving control is the key to creating a strong relationship with our children. The stronger our relationship is, the more likely they will connect with us, and the more opportunities we will have to teach the life skills. We will want to pick the boundaries for our children very carefully, creating as few as possible. It is important to look at your house and get rid of as many areas of potential “control battles” as possible, creating fewer boundaries to enforce.

A control battle simply means a time where we have to stop, say no, or take something away from our child. As a way to give our children more control, we want to remove any situations where control battles occur. For example, if your child keeps playing with your DVD collection and you keep having to take them away from him, then put the DVDs somewhere he does not have access to. Thus you can eliminate one “No.”

We want to create an environment for our children where we can give control and say “yes” to them 90 percent of the time, and create boundaries 10 percent of the time.

How do I decide what is a boundary? 

Most parents, like yourself, already have some boundaries you have set for your children. Moving forward, why not take some time to consider each particular boundary you create very carefully. With each boundary we are saying that stopping our children is, in that instant, more important than giving them control. With each boundary you create, ask yourself “Does this boundary aid my child’s overall health and safety?” For example, making sure that your child does not drink the toilet water does. Making your child wear their hair a certain way every day may not be one, as it will not hurt your child or anyone else if they choose not to. This would be something that you can let go of and give your child control over.

From “Autistic Logistics” by Kate C. Wilde.

2 Responses

  1. Susan Shaw says:

    My 14 year old grandson who has autism, will not go to bed until 10.30pm. Health professionals have advised my daughter (his mum) that he should be in bed no later than 9.30pm.
    He was so unhappy going to bed at 9.30pm at respite that he would get out of bed and then urinate on the floor as a protest. Consequently, he was so unhappy at respite because of the early-to-bed rule, that his mother has had to abandon respite altogether.

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