Everything you need to know about boundaries
Teaching children about boundaries is a crucial aspect of parenting. Doing it properly will help your child to move through their whole life in a healthier way. Let’s dive in!
One of the hardest challenges that parents face today is setting boundaries with their children. Saying no to children from an early age is the approach that a lot of parents take, and they often stick with that approach for their little one’s whole childhood. Lots of parents think that saying no and stating things in a black and white way is a good method because it seems to work initially. The problems appear further down the line as children mature and communication suffers.
COMMUNICATION IS KEY
Setting out house rules or family guidelines is the way forward. It lets everyone know where they stand and keeps lines of communication open. Studies have shown that this healthy process of boundary-setting can be very beneficial for children by helping them to develop problem-solving skills, accountability, discipline and adaptability. Here are some things to keep in mind when laying down boundaries for your children.
Clear and positive
Create clear and simple expectations and keep them positive. Avoid a list of forbidden things and instead focus on the good things you expect your little ones to do. Help them to understand by explaining why you have these expectations and why they’re beneficial for both you and them!
Lead by example
Be a role model. Children often mirror the behaviour of their parents, so be sure to set a good example for your child to follow. You can use this to teach them the right times to say yes or no.
Set them up for success. It can be a struggle as a child to navigate these boundaries, so do what you can to assist them without doing the actual work for them. Talk to your child before they take on a new challenge to discuss what they might find hard and what you expect of them. This will help to prevent arguments later on.
If you can foresee anywhere they might slip up, consider helping them in advance, but don’t do everything for them. They will learn which areas they find harder and, with your guidance, be able to do what’s needed to plan ahead and succeed.
Provide some options! Setting boundaries for your children isn’t about restricting them. It’s about guiding them on the right path while also letting them to express their individuality along the way. Allow them to choose whatever they want from a list of suitable activities, or from a range of healthy lunches, or what to wear for the day.
Nobody’s perfect. Children will forget rules, push back against rules and break rules from time to time. It’s a natural part of being a child and trying to figure everything out. Be prepared for this and don’t worry. You can lovingly remind them of the expectations and boundaries without being too strict. Try not to always swoop in to make amends after your little one makes a mistake. It’s such a vital part of growing up to misstep, to sit in the discomfort of that and to find the way back. Let them live and learn but always be there as a safety net.
When you say no to your child, they’re learning that they are overstepping a line or breaking a rule. If you adopt this way from a very early age, it can successfully teach your child your rules, what is right and what is wrong. With young children in particular, it can feel like you’re saying no all the time while your child is still trying to figure out the boundaries.
It can be sad to feel like a negative parent in that sense, denying things from your child. Try to remember that you are helping them to find and cement boundaries, and that this is a skill that they will need for their whole life.
There are so many rules in the world, and some are more obvious than others. By starting from a young age, and in the safety of your home, you can train your little one to manage these different rules as they grow up. It will benefit them in countless ways, from staying out of trouble in school, to engaging healthily in social dynamics, and on and on as they grow through life – discovering and working through many different obstacles in their path. Because of your teaching around boundaries, they will be equipped with the skills they need to overcome these obstacles.
MOVING ON FROM “NO”
Once your child develops a little more and is capable of some conversation, it’s time to introduce words other than “no”. The best approach is to have regular, calm discussions about what is allowed and what is not, why these rules exist, and what the consequences of breaking the rules are. There should also be room for your child to negotiate with you.
This is not ‘giving in’ or being an inconsistent parent, it’s treating your child with the respect that you would like in return. If done properly they will come to understand where the hard boundaries are and where there is room for negotiation, without trying to take advantage of your kindness.
A RECIPE FOR SUCCESS
Teaching children about boundaries is one of the core components of parenting. It will foster a strong, healthy relationship between you and them, and it will also allow them to do so with others in their lives. Children who haven’t been taught these concepts can tend to struggle in various parts of their adult life, including relationships and work.
So, while it might seem harsh or tough at times, remember that you are putting your child on the right path for success and setting them up to enjoy everything that life has to offer.