There is a high risk that at some point soon my daughter may be going to nursery in her pyjamas. This is not because I can’t be bothered to put her in proper clothes, but because on a number of occasions she has refused to get dressed. Just to be clear she does like nursery and she does like wearing her clothes, but if it is a morning when quite frankly she’s not in the mood to go out at the time the adults deem necessary her current tactic is to announce that she’s not going to get dressed! Whilst I have a grudging admiration for her stalling tactics the bottom line is that I feel I have to set a boundary here – school is looming and last time I checked attendance and time keeping isn’t optional according to your mood!
Given that we have reached a stage of mostly independent dressing trying to force her into any form of attire would be an entirely pointless activity and one I’m not personally comfortable with. I’m also not going down the road of bribery – she’s got 14 years ahead of her in full time education. That’s a long time! So my current approach is that we ARE going to nursery – if necessary with pyjamas on.
At this point I feel the urge to try and justify how I’ve set my boundaries – to establish that I am not a terrible parent or uncaring or harsh etc and this sums up for me the problem that I see so many of us encounter as parents when it comes to setting boundaries. Not only do the majority of us not want to be in conflict with our children, there is also the issue of how other people perceive our parenting.
We know that as parents we have to set boundaries. However unless you are super confident and don’t ever question your own judgement then it’s probably going to cause some personal angst at least some of the time. Throw into the mix what other people may or may not think of you or the issue you’re setting a boundary on and it’s no wonder that as a coach confidence is one of the biggest challenges I see parents encounter. It’s one of the biggest drains on parent wellbeing and one of the huge benefits of coaching. Whilst my clients know that I don’t offer advice or tell people how to parent I still quite often get the question “What do you think…..?” Actually it doesn’t matter what I think of your parenting style – you are the expert in your child and you will have a far better idea what is best for them. My job is to help you clarify what this is and identify how you’re going to achieve this.
Setting boundaries is a minefield because there is no universal agreed guideline on where these should be set. Our own upbringing, values and the needs of our family unit all vary so much. What is the “right” bed time? When do you let them do xxxx on their own? What if “everyone else” is doing xxxxx?
Sometimes I see fear of what others think or being deemed “bad parents” holds us back from giving our children the opportunity to flex their wings and test out the consequences of their own choices. Let’s say my daughter does call my bluff and go to nursery in her pyjamas. Would that make me a bad parent or would it help my daughter to realise that me encouraging her to get dressed is for her benefit? If my teenager is late for school because I don’t drag them out of bed, layout all of their clothes and then spoon feed them their breakfast does it make me a parent who is trying to teach responsibility or abdicate my own?
Like so many things it boils down to our own knowledge of our children and how we deliver actions. Boundaries can be set down in hugely loving ways or dominant and cruel ones. What for one child can be oppressive for another can free them from anxiety and worry. Sometimes not bailing our kids out can be the most loving thing ever, even though inaction is harder for most parents than constantly picking up the pieces.
There will always be others who will do things differently to us, particularly in the spheres of family life and actually it is possible to parent differently to your friends and both be right if it is the best thing for your child. The big challenge is holding our nerve confidently and lovingly. So if you see a little girl in pink pyjamas on her way to nursery then please know that I am picking my battles, I love her more than words can say, I think carefully about what is best for her and I whilst time will tell whether I made the right decision it was the best decision I could at the time.
Post script – I wrote this blog a little while ago and I am glad to report that my daughter has made it through the whole of nursery without attending in her pyjamas. However we do have school starting soon……..