Parenting Principles Part 1 – Boundaries and Nurturing

Our class Advanced Parenting: Becoming a Superparent is scheduled to begin on September 23rd (click the link for details) and I have been getting questions about my basic parenting principles.  This seems like a fair thing to ask some guy who is trying to tell you that you should come take a class about parenting.  With that in mind I have decided to publish a three part blog series over the next week, touching on a few parenting concepts that will be discussed in greater detail in the class.  It is important to note that I don’t believe that any style of parenting is necessarily wrong as long as it’s not abusive. The class will be an opportunity for us to compare ideas and take a look at the pros and cons of different approaches in a collaborative and productive environment.
In the past 10 years, I have worked with many families caring for abused, neglected and severely traumatized children.  Many traditional parenting techniques backfire with these kids for complicated reasons.  However the reverse is not true, the techniques that work with those children that have been through the worst possible circumstances turn out to be very effective with all kids, and understanding why can give us a lot of insight into the parenting process.
Note the "pinky lock", this child is loved, and also not getting away.

Note the “pinky lock”, this child is loved, and also not getting away.

Kids need both firm age-appropriate limits as well as unconditional love and support.  These are two separate things but parents often get them muddled and feel that they have to choose between being the strict rule enforcer or providing anything their children want in order to be happy.  Often these roles end up divided between partners where one parent gets to be the fun one while the other is the enforcer.

A good first step in examining our own parenting style is to assess our own ability to set appropriate boundaries and have them respected, as well as show our children that they are loved unconditionally and all the time.  The metaphor for this concept, which is taught to parents caring for severely traumatized children, is a steel box with a velvet lining.  The steel box is the firm boundaries we set and keep our kids safe within.   But the velvet lining represents that just because the boundaries are firm they don’t need to feel harsh or uncomfortable.  Nestled in the velvet lining our children feel safe and cared for as they explore the world being opened to them.  The concept of keeping your child in a steel box may seem overly restrictive, but the opposite turns out to be true.  When children are confident that their parents are strong and capable of keeping their world safe and nurturing, they feel freed to explore all the parts of the world we gradually introduce to them.  As children grow and are capable of more independence, the box has to get bigger and bigger until eventually they open it up and start setting their own boundaries.
Disclaimer: The Revolution Institute does not advocate literally putting your kids in a box!

Disclaimer: The Revolution Institute does not advocate literally putting your kids in a box!

Thoughts on these ideas?  Feel free to leave a comment.  And of course, we would love to include you in the exploration of this and many other parenting concepts in the upcoming class, Advanced Parenting:Become a Superparent! 

About Zach Stones, MFT

Zach Stones is a Marriage and Family Therapist in San Diego, founder of Revolution Institute and parent of three.
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2 Responses to Parenting Principles Part 1 – Boundaries and Nurturing

  1. Pingback: Parenting Principles Part 2 – Managing Our Anxiety | Revolution Institute

  2. Pingback: Parenting Principles Part 3 – Looking to Ourselves | Revolution Institute

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