Back in college, I was often told that I have “good boundaries.” At the time, I did not quite know what that meant but sounded positive so I would smile and say thank you. It was not until I was a little older that I began to recognize what those people were talking about and really appreciate the compliments. I also started to recognize boundaries all around me, whether it was people lacking them but seemed to want them or when people had appropriate boundaries and how it seemed to affect their lives and happiness. People who asserted themselves seemed to be happier. I began to work on having even better boundaries. This article will be based on your relationship with your child and your child and others, however, may be transfereed to spouses/friends/co-workers as well. I am going to be going over what good or appropriate boundaries look like, what good can come from having them with your children, and how to set good boundaries for yourself and with your kiddos. Along with how to help your child create good boundaries for themselves. So let’s begin!
What do good/appropriate boundaries look like?
Boundaries can be space related, physical touching, and words as well. When a parent lets their child know when it is ok to crawl all over them, touch them, be in their space, the parent is exerting a good physical boundary. You are in charge of your space and your body as is your child. For example, it is not uncommon for a child to be encouraged or even “forced” to hug a person whether it be grandma or teacher. If your child expresses resistance, verbalize options to your child (would you like to hug your grandma? And if not allowing that to be their choice and saying “that is your choice. Would you like to high five her?” If still no, then wave is usually acceptable. When a parent stops a child from yelling/cursing at him/her that parent is exerting a healthy boundary. The parent says this in a calm manner and does not blame the child for his/her feelings. So no “because you…”. When there is a hard feeling such as frustration, anger, sadness, feeling of being invisible (being ignored) these feelings are said outloud in the moment. The unknown is known because when something is wrong it is said outloud and not bottled.
What good can come from having good boundaries?
So many things, but the #1 is likely to be a trusting honest relationship. More open conversations, listening and understanding. A child that will likely say “no” when faced with situations that are precarius. There is typically more respect in the relationship as well, both ways. Your child will also be learning how to positively and assertively interact with peers and other people in their lives. There is typically an increase in self confidence and self esteem as well, as your child has been validated and has a voice.
How to set good boundaries for yourself with your child.
Validate your child’s feelings and when necessary set limits, allowing them to have them. Especially the hard ones. i.e. anger, embarrassment, sadness, rejection, frustration to name a few. Validation can look like stating: You seem angry. I know you are frustrated. It’s hard feeling sad. When necessary, if their is verbal or physical abuse occuring then set a limit. For example, your child is angry and hits his brother. It could look like “ I know you are frustrated (stated the feeling) but it is not okay to hit your brother (stated what behavior is not acceptable). You may go hit that cushion (provided an acceptable alternative). Another example of setting a limit: I know you are lonely (feeling) but it is not okay to follow me around in the kitchen while I make dinner (unacceptable behavior). You may go color at the table or play with your cars right outside the kitchen (alternative choices). You may have noticed that last example had a choice for the acceptable behavior. We all like to be in control of our lives and choices help us to feel more in control. Children are people just like adults. Provide as many choices as you can, whether big (park or pool?) or small (blue plate or red plate?). Your child knows when you are upset so be honest without blaming. Own your feelings, validate your child feelings and model self care.
How to help your child create good boundaries for themselves.
Your child is always watching you and soaking it in. Even when it does not appear so. Model for them appropriate boundaries in all environemnts. Be assertive and open. Talk to your child about what to do if a person is in their space and s/he does not want them to be or being rude and how s/he could standing up themselves. If needed, tell them in the moment so learning while experiencing. Listen to him/her.
This was a brief overview of what good boundaries are and how to create them with yourself and how to help your child do so as well. I hope that you feel at least a little more prepared in how to set good boundaries with your child and in life in general and how to help your child do just the same.