Julie Stass. PhD, LCSW, is a life coach and equine therapist who helps people develop the positive connections they seek in family and work relationships. Setting limits in respectful and positive way is the central theme especially when it comes to the parent-child bond. “Communication needs to be succinct and clear,” she said, “Tell your kids what you want, not what you don’t want.” This is a critical skill for the modern parent who is confronted with the challenge of setting limits for the use of cyber tools.
According to Stass, how our childhoods informed us (i.e., parents or guardians who perhaps set, enforced and/or responded to limits with an angry heart) influences how we parent. And for many modern parents the fear of negative angry emotions associated with setting limits keeps them from establishing boundaries that promote open and honest communication about what is happening on and off line. Stass’ book, How to Set Limits without Getting Angry (2013), provides a practical overview to help parents come to grips with their own perceptions that might be getting in the way of setting healthy boundaries. This is insight helpful to strengthen the bond with a child in a cyber-powered world. “It is so important to always give your kids something they can do, because they want to please parents,” she said. “And by the same token over emphasis on the rules can result in only achieving compliance, which is not the same thing empowering them.”
A culture of trust, integrity and transparency
As primary teachers for life, parents have the capacity to establish a climate that supports open communication that makes it possible to impart wisdom. In this regard it is important to focus on a handful of cyber safety rules that feature benefits for the individual and the greater good of the family unit. This is the authenticity that kids are seeking in the social network full of fear and fakery. In her book, Stass encourages parents to “pick the hills you are going to die on”. These are the three “hills” that she states served her well: safety, respect and transparency.
Safety. Restrictions, such as curfew, criteria for friending in the social network, and decisions about apps that can be downloaded and used are tied to safety. And when personal security is presented as the child’s responsibility to honor boundaries to keep them free from bullies and nefarious characters because their lives matter - this is a message of empowerment and caring rather than being oppressed by rules.
Respect. Self-respect is expressed first towards others. The sooner children realize that how you treat others is how you are training them to treat you, the better. Stass encourages parents to be very clear about the expectation that respecting others in positions of authority is important, even when you are not being treated fairly, because there will always be consequences for your own behavior regardless of what others are doing right or wrong.
Transparency. No secrets and no surprises. Train your children to be proactive in brining situations and circumstances, especially things they have done that are upsetting, to your attention before you find about it another way. The signal this sends is that you do not expect them to be perfect and that hiding bad news only makes things worse. The transparency rule allows the child to involve the parent as a resource to help with problem solving and encouragement to stand corrected as they experience the natural consequences of decisions and actions.
Download Stass’ book: How to Set Limits Without Getting Angry
For more about setting cyber-safe limits go to: A Google World in the Garden of Eden - Five Family-Safe Strategies for Texting and Social Media