THE BLOG

Are a Lack of Boundaries Turning Our Children into Criminals?

02/05/2013 05:06 pm ET | Updated Apr 07, 2013
  • Ashley Ryan Mommy Advocate and Founder, Life Balance Community

I recently published a post, "Punishment Doesn't Make Better Kids," which started a heated debated in the comments section.

Parents were up in arms about my lax approach to parenting, saying I lack boundaries and my child may later turn into a delinquent adult.

I have to confess, these types of remarks got me thinking -- as well as reacting -- and I started questioning myself...

Is what these people saying true?
Do I lack boundaries, and will my son turn into a criminal?

After much soul-searching, I dug deep down and concluded that no matter what negativity comes from an article which I intended to be positive, I'm sticking by my core parenting values. Here's why.

The comment barrage started with my post, where I talked about how I responded when my son interrupted an important phone conversation.

I was on an important phone call which went much longer than intended; my son waited patiently, then eventually started pestering me, after which I exploded in anger.

The explosion opened a dialogue for a closer relationship between us. But, you'll have to read the article to understand.

Commenters seemed upset that I didn't reprimanded my son for his behavior.

And though I get where people are coming from, I still believe that punishment doesn't make better kids, nor does it support healthy self-esteem. Here's why...

Kids learn values and behavioral patterns by mimicking their care-givers.

If we use punishment, this is the kind of communication our children will get used to, and, in turn, learn. Punishment sets an example of fear, aggression and pay back.

The topic of punishment is a trigger for us because of the lack of empathy and support many of us experienced as children. I think that when we see other people supporting their children in ways that we weren't supported, it naturally triggers us.

I also see fear and concern among positive parenting tools because they're typically uncommon. This is manifested in the belief, for example, that If we use empathetic communication with our children, they will turn into delinquentsor if we don't set the law, our kids will become maniacs.

I don't think this is true.

There's evidence that suggests parents with a lack of boundaries can have less emotionally healthy kids, and that children raised with punishment can eventually have issues such as depression, anxiety, addictions etc.

Secondly, there's a difference between being a doormat and an empathetic parent and I think this deserves some clarification.

Children need structure and clear boundaries.

Children need guidelines and rules.

They shouldn't be allowed to run amuck and I'm not condoning this; what I'm saying is that children don't need to be punished in order to grow up to be emotionally healthy adults. I think quite the opposite.

Punishment breeds negative behaviors.

When our child does something bad and we hurt her with harsh words or actions, that's not going to make her a better person; it's going to say to her, you hurt me, now I'll hurt you.

When our child hurts us it's because they're hurting, and it's our job to find out what's going on and help them heal.