In life we all deal with boundaries – and we all try to stretch the boundaries we come up against – all of us!

Why is that?

Deep inside we know that individually we need boundaries and some are even smart enough to know that as a society we need boundaries. But most of us don’t like to be told what to do.

When I was 17 I bought my first car. I took it out on the freeway because I wanted to see what it would do. At 100 mph I started to slow down. That is as fast as I had ever gone and it felt wonderful. At about 80 I noticed the red lights in my mirror. I got a lesson in boundaries, a very expensive lesson in boundaries. 

I knew what the speed limit was (the boundary) but I wanted to see what the car would do more than I cared about the boundary or the consequence of me stepping over that boundary.

We see that so often in the news today.

People care so much about their “cause” that they do not care about society’s boundary – so stores get looted and buildings get burned.

Some of us, when we get an idea in our head, only learn the hard way. 

In college I learned that there are two types of learners. Easy way learners and hard way learners.

Easy way learners: If you tell them to stay away from the the electrical plugin because if they put their scissors in the plugin they will get a shock they will never go within three feet of it.

Hard way learners: If you tell them to stay away from the electric plugin because if they put their scissors in the plugin they will get a shock they will be running to the box with their scissors in hand. It is just how they are wired. (Pun intended.)

Easy way learners are easier to raise. They just are. They are more compliant. They follow orders. They show up where they are supposed to be when they are supposed to be there and all is good.

It is later in life that their rebellion to boundaries comes out.

As a young adult, or even as an adult in their 30’s they start showing signs of rebellion.

In contrast, from a very young age, the hard way learner has to be constantly monitored to make sure he does not hurt himself or others.  He is constantly pushing the boundaries of what is safe, reasonable and acceptable.

To set the boundary for him/her you need to use specific language to define where the line is and draw it in definite terms so there is no wiggle room.

“You may play in your room but you may not cross the line – that would be where your door would be if it would be closed.  If you cross that line you will loose $.25 from your allowance.”You defined where the boundary was and told them what the consequences was if they stepped over the boundary.

Now the difficult thing about hard way learners is you have to watch them constantly because they will be testing you to see if you mean what you say.

Trust has to be earned – and trust is built on consistency –  so if you set the boundary and say crossing that line will cost you $.25 then you have to catch them when they test you  – because they will test you!

When we were working with kids at the Los Angeles Community Center we worked with many kids who were hard way learners.

We had to keep a close eye on them because when we first set the boundaries they tested us 50 or 100 times a day.  After the first few days of that, when they began the realize that we meant what we said, they began to test us less: 10 or 20 times a day, Then two or three, then once or twice every few days and then they would tests us once in a while.

The beauty of hard way learners is that after we earned their trust they became our biggest advocate.

When a new kid would come into the Center, see the boundaries and the consequences written on the wall it was one of the hard way learners who would say, “You better pay attention because they mean what they say. If they say it, they will do it.”

Training a child is hard work but the benefits of concrete boundaries are worth it to you and all who see your child as he/she grows up into a responsible adult.

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