Teaching Healthy Boundaries to Your Kids
Even when your children are quite small, it’s important to begin instructing them about boundaries between themselves and others. A child who grows up in a home having healthy limits will also learn to apply such boundaries in his own life.
What Does “Boundary” mean?
A boundary signifies a limit that a person has. Such limits can be physical or emotional.
1. Physical boundaries. This limit can be physical and tangible, like one’s own body parts. Explaining to a child that their body belongs only to them and nobody else teaches them to develop a sense of their physical self. Explaining, “Daddy’s body belongs to him” and “Your body belongs to you” is a good place to start.
2. Emotional boundaries. Another type of boundary is more emotional than physical. Teaching children that it’s not okay to say hurtful things to others is an example of an emotional boundary. The teasing would be another way of crossing a person’s emotional boundary.
In a sense, boundaries are rules that you live by. Living with boundaries basically means, “I won’t do anything to harm you” and “I expect you not to do anything to harm me, but if you do, I’ll let you know.”
When you’re raising kids to have healthy boundaries, it’s important to allow them to express their own feelings. This one can be pretty tough for some parents as it isn’t unusual for parents to squelch a child’s healthy behavioral expression.
For example, if a 4-year-old starts crying and stomps his feet, what would you do as a parent? One healthy strategy to ensure your 4-year-old develops healthy boundaries is to help him/her label their feelings. Say something like, “I see that you’re frustrated that you can’t have the candy right now. Maybe you can have some candy after dinner.” Then, move on with life.
You helped them to label their emotions. You chose not to punish him or demand that he stop crying or “Straighten up right now.” As a parent, you just showed acceptance of your child’s feelings. Each time you behave this way as a parent, you’re reinforcing your child’s natural sense of self and boundaries.
Sometimes, there will be situations when you find it prudent to explain some boundary situations or “rules” to a child. For example, explaining to a child that no one but a doctor when Mom or Dad is also present should touch the child where their bathing suit fits is an effective way to teach a child the limits and boundaries of their own body.
Ultimately, the single best way to teach children healthy boundaries is for parents to have healthy boundaries and model them in the home.
Showing respect for each person in the house, ensuring everyone has rights to their feelings and appropriate expressions of them and talking openly and honestly about any challenging issues demonstrate healthy boundaries for children.
BOUNDARIES: Loving Limits That Help Your Kids Make Positive Choices
Children are often required to make split-second decisions that can lead to either a smooth or troublesome path. As a parent, you may have wondered how best to help your children learn to make positive choices. One way to set your children up for success is to establish good boundaries with them.
When you set boundaries for your kids, you provide gentle "cushions" that will stop them whenever they're about to bump into something that can cause distress. As soon as children "hit the cushion" (the boundary), they're reminded to alter their behaviors.
If you establish appropriate boundaries for your young children, the kids will learn to control themselves better. And as they develop self-control, your children also grow their capacity to make positive choices.
Use these ideas to set helpful boundaries for your kids:
1. It's okay to express feelings appropriately. Tell your kids it's okay to have and express angry feelings, but it's not okay to throw a toy at parents or siblings. For kids as young as 2 or 3 years, begin to set boundaries like this one.
Expect children of these ages to occasionally "test the limit" or challenge your boundary. This is completely normal. When these testing behaviors occur, think of each situation as an opportunity to show kids the consequences for violating your boundary.
If they go ahead and throw a toy at you, have them sit in a chair for the number of minutes that matches their age (if they're 2 years old, they sit for 2 minutes; 3 years old, 3 minutes).
During the episode, show no feelings. When you're establishing boundaries, it's time to be diplomatic. Be firm, but not frustrated or angry.
Simply stated, "It's not okay to throw a toy. When you throw a toy, you have to sit in a chair," and say nothing more until the minutes have passed. Then, thank the child for sitting in the chair and go on with your day.
Hopefully, the child will not throw a toy again. Instead, they'll see that you allowed them to have and show feelings without negative consequences, as long as they stayed within your boundary.
2. Answer Mom or Dad when they call you. Establish a rule that children stop what they're doing and verbally answer you if you call their names. Setting this boundary teaches your child from a young age that what adults (authority figures) have to say is important.
When kids learn this rule, they'll be more ready for kindergarten when the time comes because they'll already have the skills to follow the teacher's directions.
3. Hold Mom's hand when out of the house. Set a boundary that when you go out in public with your 2 to 6-year-old, he must hold your hand. This boundary aids your child in two ways: they learn to follow directions and develop self-control.
After all, there's no running around touching a lot of things if he's right beside you holding your hand. Having this rule makes a profound difference in how your children choose to behave in public.
Parenting is one of the most challenging jobs ever. If you establish and keep boundaries for your children when they're very young, your work will be easier. Plus, those boundaries help to train and influence your child to make positive choices all his life.
As a parent, you have the power to set up and maintain appropriate boundaries for your kids from a very young age. Help create happier, healthier lives for your kids by setting loving limits for them to follow.
Tech-Gadgets: Setting Boundaries for Your Kids
If you’re raising kids today, you’ve probably wondered how to limit the amount of time your children spend using electronic devices. Our children have been exposed to technological gadgets practically from birth. Separating them from their electronics can seem to be a tall order.
However, even though you may have challenges getting your kids to put down their tech toys, when you set boundaries and model appropriate use of these tools, you’re doing your kids a real favor in terms of their future.
The jury is still out in terms of the long-term effects of continuous computer use on eyes and overall health. However, children engaging in extended periods of sedentary behaviors can experience social struggles and weight gain throughout childhood. Therefore, moderation is the key.
Try these strategies to establish wise limits on your kids’ use of technology:
1. Accept technology as important. Your kids are being exposed to new technologies at school and encouraged to use computers and other devices to learn. They connect with their friends and make sense of their worlds through computers and cell phones. Given their tech-heavy environments, of course, your kids are enamored with all things electronic.
2. Avoid speaking negatively about gadgets. Using the “technique” of talking negatively can backfire and result in some children actually gravitating more strongly toward technology. Remember that some electronics use does teach them skills they’ll need as adults navigating the information age.
3. Talk about boundaries. Work toward being on the same page with your spouse, 1 partner, or ex-spouse regarding any house rules about electronics use. Try discussing this subject when the kids aren’t around. Then you’ll provide a unified front when your child inevitably tries asking you for the extra hour of video games that your partner won’t allow.
4. Set limits early on. The earlier in your children’s lives, you decide how to manage technology use, the easier things will be. Children as young as two or three are manipulating iPads, cell phones, and computers to play games and do art. Therefore, do some planning for boundaries.
5. Be clear about your agreed-on limits. Limits on technology can be set in many ways: when the child can use the technology, how long the gadget can be used (each episode of use), and whether the technology can be taken out of the house.
6. Avoid undesirable patterns. How you expose your very young children to technology sets a pattern for them. It’s best not to distract misbehaving kids with your iPad, as they can interpret this as being rewarded for negative behaviors.
Instead, try something like, “As soon as you pick up all your toys, Mommy will let you play games on the computer for 15 minutes.”
7. Keep it in perspective. As with all things in life, encourage your child to partake in a wide range of activities. Ensure that your child is involved in physical activities, like intramural sports or the YMCA track team. As a parent, you’re in a position to plan regularly scheduled family activities for the family.
Going out to dinner together or riding bikes on a Saturday morning are wonderful family activities. When you focus on showing your kids that life is made up of many things, not just playing with technology, they’ll learn not to cling too tightly to gadgets.
Try putting several of these strategies to work at your house. You’ll be pleased with how well your children adjust to and stay within the technology limits you’ve set for them. Establishing these boundaries teaches your children to do the same as they grow and mature. As they learn to balance their own lives, they’ll develop into well-rounded, healthy adults.
Setting Boundaries That Will Empower Your Child Against Bullying
Bullying can damage a child’s self-esteem and lead to other mental and physical challenges. If your child is being bullied, it’s important to address it before the bullying escalates.
You can empower your children to face bullies and deal with them effectively!
Use these strategies to arm your kids with powerful techniques against bullies:
1. Set boundaries. Teach your child how to set boundaries with others. Discuss limits, what behavior they will accept from others, and how to respond when others don’t respect their boundaries. You can start the learning process by teaching your children that bullying is hurtful and has negative consequences. Discuss different boundaries related to bullying and address their concerns and questions.
2. Teach your child to seek help. Please help your child understand that teachers, parents, friends, and others can help them. Discuss how to approach adults and describe the bullying. Practice doing this at home, so your child will be ready at school or camp if the situation should occur.
You can also discuss being persistent in getting help. If the adults are busy or not listening, they need to learn they can ask others for advice.
3. Discuss confidence. A confident child is more difficult to bully and doesn’t make an easy target. Build up your child’s confidence at home, so they’re prepared for the outside world.
Words, actions, and body language can reveal self-confidence. Teach your 1 child to walk confidently, stand up straight, keep their head up, and remain calm. You can also teach your children to talk confidently and express themselves without fear. These are important empowerment lessons.
4. Encourage conversations about bullying. One of the easiest ways to empower children is to listen to them.
Your children should feel comfortable discussing their concerns with you and know that they can talk without facing criticism.
Children thrive in a loving and safe environment, so letting them discuss their fears is important.
Children also turn to siblings during difficult situations. Your entire family should feel comfortable discussing bullying and its consequences.
5. Avoid the temptation to interfere. Although it’s easy to get involved and confront the bully, this prevents the children from learning from the experience. The children lose the chance to stand up for themselves and face the bullies.
Your child can be aware of your support without you micromanaging every bit of the situation. Let your child figure out how to handle the issue with your advice.
You can continue to monitor the issue from a distance so it doesn’t escalate.
6. Teach your children to walk away. Bullies thrive on hurting others and want to see a reaction from your children. Teach them to walk away from certain situations, so the bully can’t hurt them. If your child can ignore the bully, then the bully loses their power over them.
Bullies are often scared of adults and seek out situations without them.
Teach your children to look for adults, so the bully will leave them alone.
Bullying can hurt a child’s feelings, thoughts, confidence, self-esteem, and future. However, you can work with your children to empower them by taking advantage of these tips.
Maintaining Healthy Boundaries with Your Adult Children
After your kids grow up, you remain a parent, but your job description changes. Your adult children can make their own decisions, and you’re both free to determine how you want to interact with each other. Setting boundaries will help you to maintain a healthy relationship.
There may be many issues to sort out. For some parents, it’s a matter of encouraging healthy independence in their children. For others, there may be conflicts caused by feeling neglected or disrespected.
Use your emotional boundaries to clarify your priorities and let others know how you want to be treated. Try these tips for parenting your adult children.
Guiding Your Adult Children Toward Independence
The coronavirus has increased the already high numbers of adult children living with their parents. Boundaries that distinguish between helping and enabling may prepare your kids to move out sooner or make it easier to live under the same roof.
1. Listen closely. Provide your children with a sounding board rather than trying to fix their troubles for them. They’ll learn more by coming up with their own solutions.
2. Expect contributions. . Depending on the circumstances, you might ask your child to pay rent or cover additional expenses such as food and utilities. It’s also reasonable to share household chores.
3. Make investments. Attach some conditions to your financial support if you think your child needs more guidance. You might pay for certain expenses, such as tuition or the deposit on an apartment.
4. Set goals. Please work with your child to develop a plan for them to become self-supporting. Discuss the consequences of failing to stay on track.
5. Consult your partner. Ensure that your spouse or other relevant family members are on board. You’re more likely to succeed if you present a united front.
Dealing with Disrespect
Do you feel like your adult children are rude or hostile towards you? Resolving conflicts promptly may help you to avoid more serious estrangements.
Try these tips:
1.Hold yourself accountable. Your child may need to vent about your past performance as a parent. You can treat yourself with compassion while being open to what they have to say.
2. Be flexible. What if your child wants some time apart? Let them know that you’re willing to work on your differences and eager to welcome them back when they’re ready to talk.
3. Set limits. At the same time, you may need to decide what conduct you consider intolerable. If the situation is more than you can handle on your own, find a support group or a therapist specializing in family dynamics.
Other Issues in Setting Boundaries with Your Adult Children:
1. Address special needs. There may be valid reasons why your child needs your support long after they turn 21. That may include mental and physical health conditions, as well as financial setbacks. Focus on what works for your family instead of feeling constrained by traditions.
2. Stay in touch. What if you want to see more of your children? Long distances and busy schedules can make that difficult. Suggest fun opportunities to get together without applying undue pressure. Take advantage of video calls and other technology.
3. Allow your children to raise their kids their way. Defer to their rules and avoid overstepping unless there’s an urgent health and safety concern.
4. Pursue your goals. Remember that there’s more to you than being a parent. Create a balanced life where you can take care of your other responsibilities and fulfill your personal dreams.
Enjoy sharing your love and wisdom with your adult children and be open to learning from them too. Respecting each other’s boundaries will help you to draw closer together.
From the time your children are born, you’re charged to teach them many things so they’ll grow up to be happy, healthy members of society. Teaching your children about limits and boundaries shows your kids a truly healthy way to live.
Parents who ensure their kids grow up learning about limits and boundaries provide a solid foundation for their children’s futures. Apply some of these methods in your home to teach your kids about having and maintaining healthy limits and boundaries. Your kids will thrive!