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One of the best pieces of parenting advice I ever read had to do with setting boundaries for children. It was advice I have repeated to myself inside my head 100s of times as my children challenged me on all sorts of issues, at all different ages. The advice goes something like this …

Children want boundaries. They will be spend their childhood challenging you on those boundaries, but they want to know that the boundaries are there. They want to know that you are paying attention and that you care enough to stand firm and remind them where the boundaries are. The world is a very scary place for kids when they don’t know where the boundaries are. Knowing where they are helps the child to feel safe and secure. And feeling safe and secure is a necessary condition for becoming the best World-Changing Kid you can be!

I had another experience with this just this morning.

My children watch the iPad while they eat their breakfast. I know that this is not the best thing for them to be doing. And in my head, the perfect mom version of myself would have gotten up at 6:30, would have already showered and prepared lunches, would have fed the dog and let him out, would have unloaded the dishwasher and would be ready to sit and have a relaxing, luxurious breakfast with my children, giving them my undivided attention. But that is nowhere near reality.

This morning I slept through my husband leaving for work and my alarm because I put ear plugs in last night. I put ear plugs in because our 15.5 year old dog wakes up a lot in the night panting – in all temperatures – every few hours. I feel like I have a newborn again, being woken up throughout the night. The sleep deprivation was really starting to get to me. So, I finally found some ear plugs and they apparently work quite well! But this sleeping in resulted in a crazy, chaotic morning.

Because I do feel a bit guilty about the amount of TV my children watch, and because they watch some really dumb shows on Netflix if they are allowed to choose their own programming, I have instituted a rule that they have to watch TVO Kids or CBC Kids in the morning. This makes me feel a bit better about their morning TV routine. There are many shows on these two channels that teach the kids amazing things.

But nearly every morning, even though this has been the rule for a few months now, the kids will ask if they really have to watch one of those channels. They will ask if they can watch Netflix that morning instead. Sometimes, on the days when I am really running behind, or really tired (like today), my first instinct is to just say yes because I don’t have time for an argument or discussion about it. But then I remind myself that it is their job to test the boundaries I have set, and it is my job to stand firm. So I tell them that they can watch TVO Kids, CBC Kids or nothing.

I am always surprised by the fact that they happily choose one of those channels and (normally) agree on a show to watch. And I feel a small bit of pride when I look over and they are watching some show that is teaching them about sports or art or science. And I reminded again that there is real truth to this idea that kids actually want boundaries.

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