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When Your Kid's Behavior Causes Parenting Stress: How To Set Boundaries For Your Own Wellbeing



Your child causes you to stress so much that you are struggling to function. Every day feels like a battle and you just want a moment of peace. This stress is causing you to struggle with sleep, increasing arguments or tension with your partner, and you find yourself sacrificing your own needs to keep your child happy. Your child’s voice seems to be the loudest in the room and their antics occupy so much of your day. But, how can you fix it?


First, Is It Okay To Set Boundaries With Your Child?


Absolutely. Kids need you to be in charge, to set rules and limits. As a parent, you model what a healthy, happy relationship looks like. When you constantly give in to your kid or allow them to rule the household, your child is not learning how to have healthy relationships. When you are in charge and consistent in your rules, your child will actually feel calmer and safer as your child will know what comes next. Children need to understand that they cannot always get their way and that sometimes they have to be patient.


When you model that your boundaries are also part of you taking care of yourself, you teach your child that it is okay to take care of themselves and put themselves first.


Set Clear Household Rules


The first part of boundaries is identifying where your boundaries are being broken. Is your child being aggressive with you? Are you struggling to have a sit-down family dinner? Before making household rules, write out a list of family values and then decide what rules you want. Rules should be few, but be held consistently. When your child breaks that rule, such as no hurts, your child should immediately go in time-out or have a consequence.


A Few Sample Important Rules To Prevent Parenting Stress:

  • No Hurts

  • Kind Words (can be included in no hurts as well)

  • Indoor Voice Inside

  • Ask Parent Permission To Leave The House


Click here for a helpful family rules resource.


Set Up A Schedule (With Time For You)


Kids need schedules, but you can also have one with self-care time for you. This could be using a stoplight feature for your child so they know when they can leave their room in the morning. It could be scheduling them to do their homework at the table while you are nearby cooking dinner. Or having mandatory every day naptime or quiet time, regardless of if they are tired. It can be taking walks with your child or spending time in nature with them. It can also be you painting or being creative while they do a similar project near you.


It could be your child having screen time while you grab a workout, or scheduling weekly gym nights for yourself with child care. Part of their schedule could even be having more visits with grandparents or other family members to give you a break.


Finding ways to schedule your own alone and self-care time can significantly reduce parenting stress but it may need to be planned out and intentional so it happens.


Join A Social Event


You may have been raised to believe that parents are built to spend all of their time with their children and that you are allowed to have no outside hobbies or activities other than raising them. However, you still matter. You still have needs for adult connection, alone time, and self-care. Your hobbies and activities didn’t just stop being interesting the moment you had a child.


If you struggle to find childcare, great places to still get in social activities away from your child but have adult time would be churches, gyms, or possibly online groups for your interests, such as parenting or book clubs.


If you have childcare or someone you could ask, other great options would be your local community service organizations, churches, book clubs, parenting classes, parenting support groups, etc. Great websites to find these resources could be a local Facebook parenting group, Meetups, or trying Bumble for friends. Having a social life and friends will enrich your child as they will see you as having passions and hobbies or giving back to your local community. Your child will gain even more people who love them and they can turn to when life gets difficult.


Connect Back With Your Partner


You may have neglected your relationship when you had kids. Suddenly, your conversations become only about the kids. Make it a priority to still have conversations daily where you check in on each other, and not just your kids, the house, or the laundry list of things that need to get done. It may work for you to have a card game you play together every night, a short walk around the neighborhood, or a favorite show to watch every night. Your connections may not always be date nights, but it may be ordering in food and watching a movie. Arrange something else for your child to do, whether it is a fun movie in their room or game time, but have them spend time in another room. You can tell your child that this is mommy and daddy time and tomorrow they will have time with both of you, and set that limit.


If you have a support system nearby, ask them if once a month they can have a sleepover with your child at their house while you have an adult night. Your child will benefit from time out of the house with other family members strengthening their relationships and your relationship will benefit from some child-free time.


Remind Yourself Their Behavior Isn’t A Reflection Of You


A boundary to set with yourself is to remember, your child’s behavior isn’t necessarily a reflection of you or your parenting. Your child is growing their brain and constantly new situations so there may be times your child acts out, throws a tantrum, or does something impulsive. It doesn’t always mean you as a parent are failing or that you are flawed, sometimes it is simply a part of your child’s development and each situation gives them a new lesson to learn.


Get Your Kid/Yourself Help To Handle Parenting Stress


If your child is stressing you out with their behavior or you want to learn how to be a better parent, it may be time to get help. For you as a parent, therapy can be a place to work on your parenting stress, be reassured you are parenting well, and have a place for you to lay down your worries. An hour a few times a month can really reduce stress and increase your happiness in parenting and romantic relationships.


For your child, therapy could help them learn coping skills in how to handle behaviors, work on attachment skills with you, or work on communication skills. Therapy can help your child identify emotions and learn to voice them and ask for their needs. One great therapy for kids ages 2-7 is called Parent-Child Interaction Therapy and can really help lower parenting stress, lessen children’s attention-seeking behaviors, and help you parent with confidence.


“The beauty of motherhood is not in the freshly pressed shirts and smiling photos we show the world. The beauty of motherhood is in the folds and creases of our lives, the grimaces and tantrums, the moments when we have to grit our teeth to get through when we pound on windows and yell and scream and demand better of each other and ourselves.” — Robyn Passante, blogger


Ultimately, parenting is one of the most stressful jobs out there as it can be almost 24/7. However, hopefully, with this blog, you can find ways to lower your parenting stress and boundaries for you to put in place so it doesn’t seem as if you constantly need to cater to your child or their demands. You are allowed your own life, interests, and to still be you even after having a child.

If you are looking for individual counseling, Mary Willoughby Romm is a licensed professional counselor in the state of Virginia who provides online therapy for Willow Tree Healing Center. She enjoys transforming the lives of women, college students, kids, tweens/teens, and families through providing communication strategies, coping skills that work, allowing a safe space to be heard, and actively working towards helping you with your challenges. She is certified in Parent-Child Interaction Therapy (ages 2-7) and Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, counsels substance abuse in teens and adults, and practices Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing (EMDR) Therapy.

Please send an email to wthc@willowtreehealingcenter.org to explore working together.


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