Two ways lack of limits can harm a child

I've been interacting with a few children whose parents don't really
know how to set boundaries with them.  What I find interesting is that the
parents of these kids think they're doing what's best for their children.
They really love them and want what's best for them.  I totally believe
that.  Yet, I see how the lack of boundaries affects their children.

Often I see that the parents feels sorry for their children.  The family
has been through some really hard things and the parents feel guilty because
the children were affected.  However, children often "act out"
when they experienced change or trauma.  They show they are upset by maybe throwing tantrums or breaking things or wetting their bed.  But as the parents feel so sorry for their child, they think correcting negative behaviour will hurt the child even more.  So, on and on this dynamic
go.  Child asks for guidance and help by acting out, parent don’t give guidance and boundaries because child is acting out. 

I always try to explain to children in therapy why they get angry when they are afraid.  It is an attachment behaviour to cry or get angry (depending on the child’s temperament) when a child feels threatened.  When a parent feels too sorry for their child to correct him or her, the child learns that their
attachment behaviour won’t get helpful results.

It can result in two types of behaviours from the child:  a child that withdraws and stops asking for helpful guidance from humans (“I can’t trust you to fulfil my need for guidance so I’ll not depend on you anymore); or a child that becomes clingy and resentful at the same time (I want guidance from you but I’m afraid you won’t get it from you so I get angry at you.  But by getting angry, you might not give me guidance so I must cling to you).  
Lots of other websites and books give ideas on how to set good boundaries.  I’d rather ask you to be sober minded and ask yourself whether you recognise your child’s attachment seeking behaviours.  It will be different for each one of your children, just to make it even easier to be a good-enough parent!  

Do you have a child that gets angry at a sign they need guidance and limits?  Or does your child withdraw, or get sad.  Or show signs of separation anxiety beyond what are considered appropriate for their age? 
Attachment behaviours are not’s how your child will survive.  But it is up to you to recognise attachment behaviours for what it is: a need for you to fill their core need for stable, predictable boundaries and limits and good guidance.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I believe strongly that many adults today frequently behave badly and in a disrespectful, abusive, aggressive, manipulative,hurtful and in a antisocial manner and possessing selfish, self centered, self entilement, aggroant attitudes, showing a disregard for another human being because there was no limits and boundaries placed on their bad and inappropriate behavior as a child and teenager. Almost anything goes and is tolerated in American Society in which limits placed upon bad behavior is lacking including accountability. The violence and abuse will continue and get worse in American Society because a lack of teaching and raising our children on strong foundation of morals and values and setting and enforcing limits and conesquences.

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