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Boundary Setting Tips and Tricks From Elite Caregivers To You

Are you one of us? Are you an elite caregiver? Let me clarify what I mean by that.

Do you believe in the power of the care and nurturing you provide for young children? Do you realize the importance of setting appropriate boundaries? Now for a harder question.

Do you also know how to set boundaries concerning the adults in your life?

I know it's hard for some of us who are nurturers at heart, but I've got some tips that work even for those who avoid confrontation or who are shy. Or both. But first, the elephant standing in the room. I would be remiss if I didn't talk about it.

Yes, Virginia, there really is a childcare crisis in the US. Parents are struggling to find care. Teachers can't affort to stay. Parents can't afford to pay.

Both women and men work. In fact, a full 68% of our youngest children have all available parents in the workforce. That's at least16 million children.

Yet only 10-15% of childcare is considered high quality. And only 20% of toddler classrooms meet state imposed ratios or classroom sizes when visited unannounced. That's unnacceptable.

But who knows where to start? Funding 4-k isn't the answer. Although there's nothing wrong with it, it won't do anything to solve the problem created by the serious and longstanding attitude of undermining woman's work in society.

But what will? Here are a few ideas:

Identify the elite caregivers, both parents, and providers among us.

Connect them. The are many ways to do this., childcare union,

Identify the best practices in the field and build on them.

Setting appropriate boundaries is one of those practices. Boundaries keep us all feeling safe. Like a picket fence surrounding a yard filled with creativity, fun and laughter.

Here's a phrase that often helps me to set boundaries. After 40 years of working as an early childhood and parent educator I haven't found a better way to set an absolute limit. I use this phase sparingly, when a child makes a demand of me and I'm positive I'm not going to do it.

I simply say, "I'm not going to change my mind."

Of course, once you say that, you can't go back or you'll lose all credibility so be careful and use it only when you really need it.

The other day when I was playing with an 18 mo. old, she brought me a empty gallon of glue and asked me to take the lid off. I did. Then she brought me a full gallon. Oops! I wasn't about to take the lid off of that one. And I didn't have the time to set up a glue area for her to experiment with. I used an "I" message instead.

"I'm not going to take that lid off." When she started to whine and stamp her feet, I added, "I'm not going to change my mind."

"Sure!", she said sarcastically, but stopped her fit and walked away!

Once, 26 years ago, when I told my wailing 2-year-old that I wasn't going to change my mind he responded by stopping crying immediately and saying, "Mama, I like it when you don't change your mind." I was so shocked I made him repeat it. Limits can be good.

So how about setting limits with adults? Same. Here are some examples of "I"messages.

I don’t let anyone hit me.

I don’t use low-quality childcare.

I won’t let myself or my children be abused emotionally or physically

I use and teach assertiveness and problem-solving both of which allow me to be a part of the solution to bullying.

And I'm not changing my mind about any of the above!

Last but not least are a few ideas about how to respond to rude questions.

When someone calls you a babysitter, checks to see if you’re feeling unfulfilled being a stay-at-home mom, asks when you’re getting a real job, wonders if you need an education to be a childcare teacher, assumes you’re not very smart since you’re in such a low-paying, unrespected position or balks at the price of childcare for “diaper babies”, try one of these responses:

  • Why would you think that?

  • Are you serious?

  • Seriously?

  • Really?

  • What would make you think that?

  • What gave you that idea?

  • Who told you that?

  • Who made that one up?

Then wait. Make them answer for your information but don’t argue back, it’s not worth the effort.

There are those in the field like us, who understand the importance of our work.

Let’s connect and refuse to accept mediocrity when it comes to our youngest children. Here’s why:

In the first few years of life, more than 1 million new neural connections form every second. After this period of rapid proliferation, connections are reduced through a process called pruning, which allows brain circuits to become more efficient. In light of these findings, focusing on early childhood only makes sense. -Center for the Developing Child, Harvard University-

Nanci J Bradley is an early childhood and family educator, author, teacher, family aerobics instructor, and an all-around fun-loving person. She believes in the power of sleep, healthy eating, lifelong learning, and most of all, PLAY! She studied early childhood ed at Triton College and received her BS in education in 1986 from NIU. She received her MA in human development from Pacific Oaks College in 2011. She lives and teaches in Madison WI.

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