Set Boundaries for Family

Stress Management Series – Section 6 – Set Boundaries for Family

Set Boundaries for Family by Dr. Jack SingerOne of my favorite parts of working from home is that I don’t have an office outside our house to go to. What is one of the most stressful parts of working from home?  Yep, you guessed it.  I don’t have an office outside our house to go to. 

While I usually love showing up to work in my pajamas, taking a nap in the afternoon, and being able to fix myself my favorite mid-morning snack, working from home can be very stressful when my family doesn’t realize that I am not available during normal business hours.  When my family wants me to deliver forgotten items, wait for the cable man, or let the kids play Webkinz on my laptop, I find it, frankly, a little disrespectful. 

I’ve found, though, that with proper training, your family will happily (most of the time) adhere to your work rules, if you follow these suggestions:

Make the rules concrete. 

Set specific guidelines. These can be simple to understand guidelines like “You may not come in Mommy’s office when the door is closed” which even the youngest children can understand.  You can set a more specific schedule for older children such as “I am not available between 10-2, Monday through Friday.” The more specific your rules, the more readily everyone will abide by them.

Reward them for compliance. 

Bribery works! In extreme cases, I will readily agree to play a despised board game, take the gang for ice cream, or let someone else control the TV remote in exchange for an hour of uninterrupted work time. Don’t be afraid to reward your family for a job well done. If you have a specific project that you need to get done, remind your family of the rules, and let them know that you appreciate their understanding by giving them something to look forward to. Help them be a success, too!

Refuse to break the code.

No means no, not maybe. If you give in to whining or pleading, you’re only training your kids (or spouse) to whine and plead. Not a good thing. Before you give in, ask yourself what you’re training your family to believe about your ability to set limits. Then act accordingly. Teaching children to respect the rules, your rules, is a lesson for life.

Hold up your side of the bargain.

If you tell the kids you’ll be off the computer at 5 PM and spend some time playing Duck Duck Goose, then you’d better be goosing it up at 5:01. Pushing out the timeline or going back on your agreement is no good. This only sets the stage for an argument. The next time you insist on a specific rule regarding your office time, you will have much less leverage as you try to defend your position. Your word is your bond – keep it.

Be available when you’re off the clock.

If you want your family to respect your work time and space, then you need to respect family time. No checking the BlackBerry at the dinner table. No taking business calls in the middle of Junior’s school play. No sneaking off to your computer to send a few emails when the rest of the family is gathered around the TV, watching SpongeBob. When you’re “away” from the office, make sure you’re really away. You set the rules – you need to follow them, too.

Stress Management Series

Sources of Stress

Set Your Priorities

Manage Time Effectively

Get Back in Control

Just Say No

Set Boundaries for Family

Ward Off the Time Vampires


Take Care of You

Create a Support System


Download Entire Report [PDF]

Free 20 Minute Telephone Consultation with Psychologist Dr. Jack Singer

I am also available for phone consultations with athletes around the U.S. and in-person visits with athletes in Southern California.

Jack N. Singer, Ph.D.
Certified and Licensed Sport and Clinical Psychologist
Diplomate, National Institute of Sports Professionals, Division of Psychologists
Diplomate, American Academy of Behavioral Medicine
Certified Hypnotherapist, American Academy of Clinical Hypnosis

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