This post has been contributed by a lovely reader of the blog as part of an ongoing series “What other families do”. You can find more posts in this series here.
The set up of my family – 2 parents, 5 kids is one of the many combinations you can have when it comes to family structure. It is wonderful to hear from families with a different set up and how they manage the everyday challenges of family life. I sought out Jen and asked her if she could help with a question from a reader of the blog and I am super grateful that she said yes and is sharing the story of what her family does.
“I am a single mum with one tween, love some tips on boundaries with one child. No other children to negotiate with here! “
Nicole asked me to chime in on this one as I’m a sole parent with one child, although mine is nearly 17 years old now and past the tween years. Nicole approached me as someone she sees as someone who’s intentional with my parent. I’d never thought of a name for my parenting style but I certainly think about it a lot and boundaries comes into play for sure.
From the beginning I had boundaries – especially around sleep as I don’t operate very well on little sleep and am a much nicer person when my sleep hours are not depleted.
As far as boundaries in his tween years? And what happened if those boundaries were crossed? That’s the important part – consistency and consequences.
Consequences is pretty easy. As my friend often said – find out his currency and a consequence is removing that currency. Nowadays it’s turning off the wifi because his currency is internet access on his computer. When he was a tween that wasn’t as much of an issue because he didn’t have his own computer but his currency might have been access to the Xbox for example. Other consequences might be less or no pocket money, or not attending a friend’s party.
The trouble with some consequences I found is that some of them punished me as well. Say I said no television for a week then that means I get no quiet time when he would normally be watching television. And for a single parent, that’s tough. Therefore it’s good to plan ahead if possible and not get caught in the moment when you need to reinforce consequences.
So you what have I set boundaries on?
I mentioned above I’ve always had boundaries around sleep and this has continued right through till now. There has always been a set bed-time, especially during the week on a school night. Even when he was a tween weekend bed-times were later but not super late. Of course, if we were at a party together then whatever time we got home was to bed, unless he crashed out at the party.
As he’s become older this time has become more of a negotiation. I love his line ‘but no-one else goes to bed this early.’ How does he know this? And it doesn’t matter what time he goes to bed he usually wakes up around 7am. This does shift a bit now he goes to bed later on weekends and during school holidays.
The bug-bear of many a parent is this one. When he was a tween though, he had a playstation then an Xbox and you could set times on the Xbox so it would only operate for however long you set it per day. He wasn’t playing online then so it wasn’t as much of an issue. We also didn’t have an iPad or similar so that didn’t come into play. And we had one laptop in the house which he didn’t use that often. He didn’t get a mobile phone until he started high school when he was 13 and when he did it had to stay in the kitchen, ie not in his room, at night. In fact until we moved a couple of years ago he didn’t have any technology in his bedroom so that’s one way of limiting it.
When he was a tween it was also easier to get him to do things with me so we’d go for walks together, go to movies, visit friends. And I would say if he sees you on a device all the time then why shouldn’t he or she?
Basic stuff. When a friend comes over, greet them. Even if it’s a friend of mine who he won’t be hanging out with he can say hello then go back to what he was doing. Now when my friends come over he’ll shake their hand if they’re a guy, or give my girlfriends a hug. Recently I had a few girlfriends over for an afternoon and he stood by the front door saying goodbye with a hug to each one of them. And this was unprompted. He’s grown into this as a teen though – it’s not something he did as a tween.
Don’t talk to me when I’m on the phone. That’s always been a hard one. And I’m surprised at how long this went on. It was never an urgent interruption, so I’d politely excuse myself from my phone conversation, and let him know that I’d speak to him after I’ve finished my phone call.
I always had jobs to do when I lived at home and I expect my lad to do the same. I’m not his slave. I can’t remember exactly how I did it when he was a tween but there was something on the fridge for what he needed to do every day and there were consequences for when he didn’t do his jobs. As mentioned above you set out the expectations and what would happen if expectations aren’t met so it’s not a surprise. Of course, they’ll always act surprised and try to get out of it but you have to hold firm.
I can’t say that I was perfect then or am perfect now. It’s definitely a work in progress, but over time I’ve found it’s easier in the long run to deal out the consequence than let things escalate into an argument.
Thanks so much to Jen for sharing how things work in her family. If technology is an issue you are after more info on, Jen has written something just recently on how she deals with technology and her now teen son – you can find it here.