Teach your child to set healthy boundaries? How is it possible for a child to set limits? Will others respect the limitations that a child imposes? And how can you teach them to do it? These are all questions that may cross your mind when you read the title of this article. But the good news is that you can teach your child to set healthy boundaries. And it all starts in your home.
Children learn about boundaries from you. You are a model for your child. If you establish loose rules in your house, you can expect her to do the same. If you do not respect boundaries, neither will she. Little things that do not seem important when she is young may have a considerable effect when she grows up. When she is young, you teach her not to interrupt, hit, or grab toys from others. But as she grows up, she must learn about other essential boundaries. And setting limits may be the most critical skill that you can teach your child because it helps keep her safe. So how do you do it?
Start when she is young.
A boundary is like a line your child draws around her to know where she ends, and others begin. If your child does not knock before entering your room or interrupts your conversations with adults, she does not grasp boundaries. The earlier you start with the process, the better she will become at understanding, setting, and respecting limits. Also, expect her to be unhappy about limits at times. It takes time to become comfortable with rules.
Establish family rules
Family rules make your child safe. It is an excellent way to teach your child to set healthy boundaries. She will know what is expected of her when you make clear rules. Think about the behaviors you want in your house that will also benefit your child. It may include talking respectfully to each other, respecting a closed door, or not taking something without permission.
Family meetings may be an excellent time to discuss rules and why they are set. Also, it is a time when your child learns to voice her opinions in a safe environment.
Inconsistency implies that rules do not mean anything. If the rule says during the week the time for a bath is at six and bedtime is at eight, you must stick to it every night. Suppose you have a rule that your teenager can go out one evening during the weekend, stick to it. Remember that rules are there to keep your child safe. If you change the rules all the time, there will be no safety.
Start with physical rules to teach your child to set healthy boundaries.
Physical boundaries have to do with personal space and physical contact. We all have the right to protect our bodies and our physical space. Never enforce physical contact with someone if your child feels uncomfortable with her. If she does not want to hug a family member or friend, you must respect her feelings. She must know that her feelings are important and that she can express them freely.
Set emotional boundaries
It is vital to set emotional boundaries to enable your child to identify which feelings belong to her. Then she can also accept responsibility for her own emotions. She will learn which feelings she can control and which ones she must let go of.
Emotional boundaries also help your child be caring, respectful, and considerate. It enables her to tell when something bothers her. She may feel free to say when you hurt her feelings. Then you must listen to her and respect her boundary. It will teach her that she is valuable and that you appreciate her.
Sketch out the consequences
There must be consequences if your child chooses to overstep boundaries. You must state the outcomes clearly. The result must be age-appropriate and directly connected to the wrong-doing. It must also be something that you will be prepared to carry through. You can discuss her responsibility for the choices she makes and the effects that they will have on her.
Remember that your child may not get it right immediately. You are there to remind her of the consequences before she will remember. Some transgressions may not be intentional, but you must still stick to the result. Setting and respecting boundaries takes practice, and you are teaching your child critical skills, exhausting as it may be.
Rules work both ways.
In the same way that you oversee your own body, others handle theirs. Just like your child may not like to be touched, her friend may also have her rules about touching. Pulling her hair or constantly bumping against her may infringe on her limitations. Teach your child to listen to her friend and respect her needs and wants. Only then can she expect her friend to respect her rules.
The word no
The word no means no. Teach your child not to negotiate around “No.” It is such a short but powerful word. And difficult to respect. Learning the power of the word no will empower her in challenging situations when she is older.
Teach her empathy
Your child can understand the principle of empathy at a very young age. When she wants to comfort a crying friend, she shows compassion. Empathy is crucial because it helps your child understand the other person’s feelings. You can ask questions like, “How do you think Sally felt when you did not want to play with her?” Or “How would you feel if your sister would grab you from behind all the time?” It serves as a mirror to evaluate her behavior and its effect on others.
Model good behavior
Your child learns more from your actions than from your words. She will naturally follow your lead if you model healthy boundaries with clear consequences. It means that you will have to evaluate your limitations and behaviors. Your child also watches how you handle challenges. You can discuss your challenge and ask her for feedback. It will help her to start thinking critically about challenging situations.
Talk about it
You can talk to your child about healthy boundaries and why they are necessary.
Explain the difference between healthy and unhealthy boundaries.
Talk about good friendships and what to expect from a good friend. Discuss questions like how does a good friend make you feel? How does a good friend talk to you?
Likewise, you can talk about bad friendships. What are the things bad friends may say, and how does that make you feel?
Let your child know that healthy boundaries are kind and not aggressive. It is a way to value and protect yourself. And it shows kindness in her relationships.
Give and discuss specific examples. Let your child explain what should be different in the situation. How would she do it, and why?
Practice skillsto teach your child to set healthy boundaries
As your child practices these skills, she will better establish and respect boundaries. There are safe ways for her to practice setting and respecting boundaries.
Games may help her to explore feelings.
Role-playing puts her in the situation and compels her to think on her feet.
Ask her “what if …” questions to help her think critically.
Read a book about boundaries and discuss it with her.
Allow her to make mistakes and talk about the effects of the errors.
Always validate her feelings. She will know that you hear and respect her. Also, she will be aware that she is valued as a person.
Let your child solve her problems.
Teach your child to solve her problems. Allow siblings to find ways to establish a healthy relationship. Do not take sides but teach them how to handle challenging situations. It will help them to accept responsibility and develop their skills.
When boundaries are not respected
When boundaries are not respected, you will have to help your child make a plan. Let your child establish what she does not like and why. Then ask her what she can say or do to stop the offending behavior. Find something that she is comfortable with, and then practice it with her.
It is essential to help your child be comfortable affirming her boundaries from a young age. Doing so will help her when a no can be critical in her teenage years. And it will carry through to her adult years. She will be forever thankful.
All children need to learn about boundaries. Please share this article with all the mothers who can teach their children boundaries.