So often we issue a series of rules and regulations to even our very young children.
“Don’t jump on the couch.”
“We don’t hit.”
“Listen the first time.”
“Stay in your seat while eating dinner.”
Children need to understand the boundaries of the home to successfully operate within the rules. It’s not important, actually, that they simply don’t jump on the couch or listen the first time. It’s important that they understand the concept of being respectful and that both of those behaviors run afoul of that.
Likewise, if the child or teenager can understand the principle of operating with gratitude we don’t need to have several rules about nagging, whining, or leaving our toys scattered about the house. We simply need to focus on the concept of gratitude and how all of those behaviors are contradictory.
With a clearly defined container, everyone in the family can view expectations through a wider lens and learn to weigh their decisions and actions against the potential natural consequences of the way they interact with the family and their environment. When children truly understand what is expected of them, parents are relieved from the fatiguing practice of constant dialog over the rules.
The beauty of the container, is that as the child grows, the bounds of the container grow with the child and can easily be applied to more mature arenas such as technology, driving, dating relationships and entrance into young adulthood.
When children have clearly defined rules, boundaries and expectations, they feel safer to engage in the natural and developmentally appropriate boundary testing behavior that is essential in the struggle to grow up.