There is a phrase that I hear rather frequently by fellow moms of young children: “But she loves it so much!” This phrase seems to be used to justify pretty much anything that the mom allows her child to do, but has at least some idea that it isn’t necessarily good for her child. For instance, the mom lets her child repeatedly watch a movie or t.v. show that has inappropriate language and behaviors – which the child is modeling and having to be disciplined for. “But he loves it so much!” Or a mom lets her child spend multiple hours a day in front of a screen (iPad, video game, t.v.) instead of encouraging the child to have hands-on interactions with the real world. “But she loves it so much!” Or the child eats several packages of fruit snacks in the afternoon, then barely touches dinner. “But he loves it so much, and they are at least made of real fruit!” I hear it over and over in all kinds of contexts. And the mom usually has a big smile on her face as she says it, like she’s providing something wonderful by giving the child what he loves so much. My interpretation of the statement would be, “I choose to not put proper boundaries in place, so, yes, my child gets to do such-and-such.”
The important thing we moms have to keep in mind, though, is that we are the parents, and our children are the children. As children, they don’t yet have the mental capacity to know what is good for them or how much of something is healthy for them. That’s our job as parents. They don’t have the internal self-control, so it is up to us to provide the external self-control.
Think of it in terms of yourself. I, for one, am pretty much obsessed with chocolate. My favorite kind of salad is an M&M salad – plain, peanut, and peanut butter mixed together. I love it so much!! But…I don’t get to enjoy it very often. It’s not good for my teeth, my weight, or my general physical health. I have to set my own boundaries, have the self-control to hold to those boundaries, and make use of accountability from my husband (not to mention the bathroom scale).
We need to be loving enough to our children to provide those types of boundaries for them. To be clear, I’m not talking about those once-in-awhile special treats, and I’m not talking about when the parent has really thought through the matter and decided this particular thing is okay. I’m referring to when the mom clearly is feeling somewhat guilty internally, and justifying their decision with those words: “But she loves it so much!”
Now, I don’t know about you, but understanding what types of boundaries are appropriate and how to set them and stick to them has been very challenging for me. That’s something that honestly I never really knew much about until a few years ago when I read Boundaries by Henry Cloud and John Townsend. That book is about setting boundaries in general, with anyone in our lives. However, the same authors also have one specifically for parents titled Boundaries with Kids. I really want to read that, but haven’t yet. It sounds really helpful. Have you read it? If so, I would love for you to leave a comment and let me know if/how it was helpful in your own family.