Confident Parenting And How To Set Healthy Boundaries

It doesn’t matter if you are a confident, bold parent or a nervous and insecure one, the time will come when someone has something to say about your parenting.

Some have learned how to shut those people out and not give a darn what strangers think but it is a completely different ball game when the someone saying something is a family member whose opinion you care about.

If you are nodding your head like yes yes yes then this post is for you.

I am normally a very confident person but parenthood has made me question a lot of things and I find myself feeling more upset than I usually care to admit when a family member mentions something. I usually like to play out scenarios in my head and have intense conversations or even fights imagining what I would say when someone says something but when the time actually comes, I shut down.

Let me tell you a little story about the first week of my first child’s life. I was extremely nervous before my baby was born especially since none of my family was nearby and it was just me and my husband. Cut to the birth where we had a rough time especially when a nurse let me know 5 minutes before pushing that they might have to air flight my sweet baby to the nearest major city an hour away.

My sweet little girl was born and she would not latch which nobody had prepared me for and sent me into a deep spiral of insecurity and sadness. I was at the hospital two nights.

My mother in law and her parents decided that it would be a great idea to show up the night we got home from the hospital. I was honestly too exhausted and sad to even say anything about it even though I had previously imaged just the three of us for the first few weeks until we got the hang of things. That is not what happened at all. Instead, I got “helped” by having my baby held and people all in my business. I had an incredibly difficult time letting anyone know what I wanted. It was an awful experience for me that I have only recently worked past emotionally.

I honestly thought I was going to be my normal self when my baby was born but post partum hormones are no joke and I was plagued with insecurities. I did learn a lot from that experience though. I learned that I can only control my own actions and cannot expect people to know what I want, think, or feel.

Ultimately, I am responsible for my own emotions and what I choose to do about them. Through years of therapy, reading, and discussion, I have learned ways to set boundaries in a way that I feel confident. Allow me to give you the SparkNotes/CliffNotes (is this still a thing?) of how I work through comments about my parenting when it comes to family members with some examples.

1. Make boundaries clearly with yourself.

You cant let others know what your boundaries are if you don’t yourself understand them.

For example: My husband and I have made the decision to not pierce our daughters ears until she asks for it if she ever decides its something she wants. Bodily autonomy is extremely important to us. This is absolutely non negotiable for us.

My mother has often brought up how we should pierce her ears and how if we wait longer, it will be harder but we know where we stand and it is easier to explain to others
(which you don’t have to do but I find useful) when we can clearly communicate the reasoning for our decision even if they still don't agree.

In fact, my mother still doesn’t agree but continuing to state the same “it is her body. We will absolutely take her if and when she decides this is something she wants to do.” has made it clear that we will not shift and thus, left no room for her opinion.

2. Get used to saying no.

Practice if necessary. Check yourself in the mirror and watch yourself saying no. You look cool, don’t you? Remember that next time you have to use that small but powerful word. “No” is a full sentence. You can do it. They are your kids and it is okay for you to set whatever boundaries you find reasonable as well as reject anyone else’s suggestions. It is your life and you are allowed to set limits to your comfort.

For example: My MIL can be...difficult. She raised five kids and thinks she knows best on all things parenting. She doesn’t always give suggestions but she likes to make comments. You know the type. We all have a relative who cannot keep their opinions to themselves.

When my daughter was born, I got a little too excited buying bows and clips, and all other kinds of hair accessories. My son has grown up watching my daughter wearing these accessories and choosing which ones she wants to wear on from the collection. My son has very strong opinions about everything.

In fact, both of my kids do and we encourage it. We want them to know they can make choices and have a choice in their style always. My son one day about six months ago grabbed a hair clip while my daughter was choosing. He handed it to me and pointed at his head. I obliged and put it in his hair.

I kid you not, he went and looked at himself in the large mirror that was a few feet away. He felt so beautiful and you could tell because he was smiling at himself. Since then, he wears clips whenever he wants which is almost daily. He has his favorites and he gets so excited to get to choose from the clip bin.

My MIL is what some would refer to as traditional. She lives in a different state than us and we recently went to see her for the first time since my son was born because of the pandemic. She has seen pictures of my son of course and Facetime’d but I think she always assumed my daughter was putting these clips in his hair.

When we were visiting with her, she asked the first day while my son was wearing his favorite coffee cup clip if we were going to take it off as we were all heading out for brunch. My husband and I, both said no at the same time. She started to say something else and I looked at her and once again stated that “No {we weren’t going to take it off}. He likes them.”

3. Respect your needs. Put yourself and your immediate family first.

I struggled with this a lot at the beginning because my parents are extremely close to us and I found myself feeling like I needed to please everyone and constantly explain myself. It was stressful to say the least.

I have since learned that I will never please everyone and even if it were possible, it is not healthy. I had to learn to put myself and my family first. I know we have all heard the saying about how you can’t pour from an empty cup. This is usually in reference to putting our needs first with our children but we must remember to do the same with our families.

It is completely different to set a boundary when you have had years of conditioning to break through. I noticed that when I was trying to please everyone in my extended family, I was worn so thin that I didn’t have much left for myself or my kids. It was exhausting and honestly not fair to my husband and children.

I had to practice putting myself first daily even when it was something small.

It started with music.

I spent far too long listening to children’s songs that I couldn’t stand. I started handing my oldest a water wow (those things are seriously magic) and listen to music that I liked and made me feel happy.

It completely changed my day to do this small thing. Slowly, I did bigger things like take a few hours for the spa to rest and refresh. This small change of choosing something for me daily, made it easier for me to set boundaries for my own needs with my family.

For example: My mother loves parties and get togethers. She would always ask my husband and I to go with her and because I just wanted to please her, I would go. Despite my own anxiety and exhausting and intense desire to stay home. I fought myself and insisted to my husband that I wanted to go.

As I started to choose myself, I decided that it was not okay for me to feel all those things and ignore them. I said no the first time to a birthday party of a kid I didn’t even know and it was the best day ever. I choose me. I choose my family. You can too.

4. Your kids are watching and learning.

I try to always be super aware of what I do around my kids. I don’t speak poorly about my body in front of my kids ever. I am extremely careful with the way I talk about food. I usually do things with the acute awareness that my kids are watching.

Still, I often forgot that when I didn’t set my boundaries and allowed myself to be uncomfortable, they were watching. I have noticed in the past few months that my oldest is standing up for herself a lot and I am encouraged knowing I am setting the example for her.

For example: Recently, my husbands youngest sibling was playing with my daughter and called her a “goober.” I know this word isn’t necessarily bad but it upset my daughter. She firmly told him “I don’t like that.” I heard her and kept watching. He laughed and called her a goober again.

She came running to me and said he called her a goober and she didn’t like it. I asked her if she used her words to tell him she didn’t like it (even though I had watched/heard the whole thing). She said yes she used her words and he did it again.

My MIL was right next to me and said that their other niece also didn’t like it at first but she got used to it while she chuckled. This did not sit right with me as I saw my little one looking defeated.

I went over to my BIL with her and firmly told him that she does not like being called goober and that he needed to stop. He started to make an excuse for his behavior and I stopped him with a “No. She doesn’t like it. Stop.” He apologized to her.

She grabbed my hand extra tight as we walked away and I saw her smile ever so slightly. Later she told her dad that her uncle wasn’t going to call her goober anymore with a huge smile on her face.

Your parenting choices are yours to make. You are a fantastic parent. Allow yourself the space and the right to raise your children how you see fit (of course, this doesn’t apply to actually dangerous or potentially life-threatening situations). Be confident. Be bold. “No” is a full sentence.

About the Author

Jessica is a Latinx mom to a boy and a girl. She currently lives in California with her husband, babies, and a super cuddly pup. She has many hobbies but her favorites include dancing, hiking, and true crime podcasts.

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