How to Enforce Personal Boundaries With Your Kid

Dear Kid Whisperer,

Every morning my 12-year-old son feels the need to constantly knock on my bathroom door to ask or tell me something mundane. How do I get him to stop this inappropriate habit? In addition to being annoying for me, my fiancée is always still sleeping at this point in the morning, and this is causing more tension. I tell my son constantly to let me get ready in peace and to finish getting ready himself, and that once we are both ready, we can talk. – Christie, Boston, Massachusetts



I am sorry for what I know you have had to endure with this situation. By this I mean two things.

One, your kid seems horribly annoying. It’s going to be very important to train him to be significantly less so in order to be able to be around him without acting resentfully towards him.

Also, I am already sorry for the advice you may be getting from people about this situation. Most of this advice is probably designed to make you feel badly about yourself instead of being designed to help you. You may have had people tell you that “he’s just trying to communicate” or that “this is his way of connecting.”

Nonsense, garbage, and a word that this newspaper isn’t allowed to print.

Your kid isn’t allowed to “connect with you” in ways that cause a problem for you: period, end of story. You are a mom. You must take care of yourself. If you need private time in the morning, that’s what you need. Your fiancée needs to sleep. You have already told your kid when you both can talk. This is an attention-seeking behavior that must stop because it is causing problems for you and your fiancée.

From your question, I know that you have been accidentally reinforcing this behavior by being more entertaining than you need to be. Here’s how I would set a limit in a boring way and then consequence him into stopping the behavior.

Kid knocks on my bathroom door as I am making myself beautiful.

Kid: I would like to discuss things.

Kid Whisperer: I would be happy to talk to you in the kitchen while I prepare breakfast at 7:30.

Kid: But, things. To discuss.

Kid Whisperer: When will I talk to you?

Kid: But I want to discuss the things.

Kid Whisperer: When will I talk to you?

Kid: Things?

Kid Whisperer: When will I talk to you?

Kid: Discuss?

Kid Whisperer: When will I talk to you?

Kid: I WANT TO DISCUSS THINGS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Kid Whisperer: Oh, dear. There will be a consequence for this. I will let you know what it will be sometime in the future.

After that, I ignore any knocking or attempts at conversation. I say NOTHING else. I do not open the door until I am

  1. Sufficiently beautiful.
  2. Emotionally ready to make breakfast and discuss things with my son.

Once in the kitchen, I will make conversation without referring to any of the previous annoying behaviors. I will be able to listen and converse because I did everything I could do to create a pleasant morning environment for myself.

Later, perhaps days later, I will have my son sit near a door for an extended period of time (perhaps an hour or two). He can read a book or have some other non-electronic activity if he wants. Once he has successfully practiced not knocking on that door and bothering me and my fiancée, he can start doing other things. Until he has become an expert at not knocking on doors and bothering people, that will be his spot during non-school hours until he becomes an expert at not bothering me or until he moves out of the house, whichever comes first.