top of page

Boundaries #4 – Consequences

Featured on the Hong Kong Economic Journal (March 15, 2014)

This series is on the theme of boundaries with children. In the same way that sports can only be played with boundaries of a court and rules of the game, children can only grow with boundaries to help them know what they should do and what they shouldn’t. Children without boundaries often end up seeming spoilt and wanting their way. In look at boundaries, I have introduced the 5Cs of effective boundaries:

  1. Clarity – boundaries have to be clearly defined

  2. Consistency – boundaries have to be consistently implemented

  3. Consequences – consequences have to be given if boundaries are broken

  4. Cooperation – different parties within the household have to cooperate to implement boundaries

  5. Change – there is a need to change boundaries with time according to what is developmentally appropriate

We already looked at how it’s important to have clarity in giving boundaries. If expectations are not clearly defined and explained, it is difficult to understand and implement. For example, the boundary ‘sleep early’ isn’t clear but ‘sleep at 8pm’ is clear. We have also looked at how it’s important to be consistent in boundaries. If we expect one thing one day, and another thing on another day, it will cause confusion to the child.

The third aspect of setting boundaries is CONSEQUENCES. Often, I’ve heard parents tell me ‘I already tell my child to do x, y, and z. I have set boundaries! But he doesn’t listen!’ My next question is: “what happens when the don’t adhere to the boundary?” And sometimes, these parents don’t have a response, which goes to show me that no consequences are given.