- What are boundaries?
- Is setting boundaries good for children?
- Unhealthy boundaries
- What are healthy parent-child boundaries?
- How to teach your child about boundaries
Understanding and respecting other people’s boundaries can be a challenging task, even for most adults. However, adhering to boundaries is crucial to maintaining a close relationship between parent and child. Moreover, it becomes increasingly challenging for parents to ensure their children’s emotional development if there aren’t fixed boundaries for kids in place.
Keep on reading to learn how to set boundaries for kids in the best way possible. 💪
What are boundaries?
Kids need well-defined limits and boundaries to experience healthy growth. However, it is not uncommon for parents to misinterpret or be negligent towards setting boundaries with children, believing that they have their child’s best interests in mind.
Some parents are extremely overprotective; they tend to micromanage every part of their children’s behaviour, including how they dress, what subjects they study in school and which of their peers they befriend. Some parents may even go so far as to push their own interests upon the child.
At the other extreme are parents that are too careless about the day-to-day aspects of their children’s lives. For example, they may say things like, ‘My child can do whatever they want, and I’m okay with it,’ not realising that these phrases often signify an absence of parental boundaries. In attempting to make themselves more modern and liberal, these parents may actually hinder the setting of boundaries between parent and child, leading to adverse consequences later in life.
So what are boundaries?
Parenting boundaries are means by which you ensure your child’s growth and safety by imposing certain limits and responsibilities upon each other. Setting age appropriate boundaries is a healthy process that will help your children grow and adapt to your home situation. 🤝
Maintaining boundaries is non-negotiable and a must for every person in your life; just like it’s an integral part of maintaining a functioning relationship with your partner, your child, too, should understand and respect how and where they fit into your life.
We all have personal values which we should not compromise for anyone. For example, if stealing and lying is unacceptable behaviour for you, this is something that you should pass on to your child.
Suppose you’ve kept some chocolate bars in your kitchen cupboard and told your kid that they can’t have more than one a day. You need to do your hardest to ensure that your child respects this boundary and doesn’t steal one when you’re not looking and then lie about it later; once a habit forms, it can snowball into a pattern extremely quickly.
Boundaries are limitations that you and your child both set for each other so that the both of you can coexist and enjoy a harmonious relationship. For example, you might set rules against stealing and lying in your home and reward them with an extra chocolate bar if they’ve done a good job on a recent test in school. This will teach them that if they work hard, they can get whatever they want without resorting to unethical tactics.
Setting boundaries with your child requires lots of effort, understanding, and compromise, but the ends definitely justify the means. Keep on reading to learn how to do this.
Is setting boundaries good for children? 🤔
Setting boundaries for children’s behaviour are necessary for a child’s growth. You should set certain limits to ensure that your child grows up healthy and responsible. A lack of care and setting boundaries with children can negatively impact children, making them rebellious and careless.
Here’s a closer look into the benefits of setting boundaries:
- It teaches them self-discipline ✨
Setting family boundaries and limits help children to evolve into more responsible versions of themselves. For example, your child might be tempted to play video games for hours. However, telling them to complete their homework first could teach them the importance of prioritising their activities.
- It keeps them safe ⛑️
Most limits are set for your kids’ safety. Overeating ice cream or staying up late at night can adversely affect both their physical and mental health.
Kids are often reckless when they are young. They aren’t mature enough to know the limits or consequences of their actions.
Maintaining boundaries can keep them safe and healthy.
- It strengthens your bond with them
Setting boundaries with your kid can help you both get closer to one another.
Kids need care, affection, and attention. Working together with your kid to maintain a good parent-child and family relationship can make your child feel cared for and loved. It shows them that you love them enough to put a lot of time and consideration into their well-being.
- It teaches them to handle emotions
It’s natural for parents to feel that they should try and prevent their child from experiencing emotions like sadness and anger until they’re older. However, this attitude can lead to a relationship where the child is emotionally dominant and can’t grasp boundaries.
If they’ve never experienced emotions when they are young, they’re likely to feel things are always going to be hunky-dory and as per their expectations. They may even struggle or be overwhelmed the first time they experience emotions when they are adults.
On the other hand, setting parenting boundaries early can help you prepare your child for the real world. Since the world outside will never be as kind and safe as your home, it’s better for your kids to recognise that they have to face uncomfortable situations and emotions in the future, thus helping them mature at an earlier age.
Unhealthy Boundaries ❌
It can be easy to misinterpret boundaries. For example, setting limits could make you feel too overprotective, whereas allowing your child too much freedom could impact their well-being; striking a balance is fundamental to being a good parent.
Therefore, differentiating healthy and unhealthy boundaries is fundamental in ensuring stability and maintaining a good parent-child relationship.
What are unhealthy boundaries?
As a parent, you love your kids and want to ensure that they get everything they want out of life.
However, to avoid upsetting your child in the short term, you could unintentionally end up creating unhealthy boundaries. Here are some real-life examples that occur far too often:
- Not saying no
Saying no to your adorable little one may initially seem tough. However, can you really justify saying yes if your kid asks for ice cream for the fifth time in a row?
Recklessly agreeing to everything that your kid demands can spoil them. As we know, kids are susceptible and impulsive; they have the desire to do everything simultaneously. However, failing to set limits can harm their emotional development as they won’t know how to cope when life inevitably throws them a curveball.
On the other hand, your kid could become rebellious if all they hear from you is no. They might feel like their friends are getting to do much more than them and end up feeling resentful or left out. These adverse feelings could then fester into disruptive emotions such as anger or hatred towards the parent.
Eventually, you might find yourself saddled with a rebellious and demanding child that you don’t know how to handle or even connect with. They could ask you for things and refuse to accept no as an answer because it’s all they heard while growing up.
Therefore, a reasonable in-between solution to these extremes is to listen openly to your child's wants and needs, granting them only within reason.
- Not saying yes
Parents have immense responsibilities towards their children. However, this could take an ugly turn.
Many parents can neglect their own child’s boundaries and intervene in every layer of their life. This could include practising overbearing parenting styles like tiger parenting. Limiting is one part of setting boundaries; however, it can turn into you being too authoritative.
Many parents invalidate their kids’ demands and interests, assuming they know the best for their children.
However, this can lead to neglect and create an aura of fear for your child. Therefore, parents need to notice if they are going over the line when it comes to limiting their children.
What are healthy parent-child boundaries? ✅
Being a parent comes with a set of responsibilities. Discipline is as important as freedom, and a good blend of both can ensure an ideal relationship between parent and child.
Setting boundaries has to be personalised according to everyone’s unique situation and behaviour; however, there are some examples that apply to everyone. Here are some pointers that you can use to set healthy parenting boundaries with your child. Let’s go!
- Setting physical limitations
Children love to jump and play around. They adore running all over the house and trying new stunts. However, as parents, you need to set some limits to ensure that they are not physically hurt.
For example, your kid could demand lots of junk food, which could hamper their health in the long run. Similarly, they could go outside to play at night without even informing you. Both of these scenarios can lead to potential physical harm.
Therefore, setting certain physical limitations on certain aspects of your child’s life can keep them safe and healthy. For example, instilling family boundaries in the situations above could look like this: you let your kid play in the playground but have a strict curfew for when they should return home, and you permit them to have a second helping of ice cream, but only on weekends.
Creating such boundaries will protect them physically and teach them to be responsible from a very young age, which can benefit them in the future.
- Setting rules and limits
To help your child grow into a responsible individual, you should set certain limitations and rules.
If these rules and limits are not imposed, you might see your child getting away with things like repeating a swear word that they overheard an adult utter or staying up till midnight playing video games instead of studying.
Creating a list of dos and don’ts will help ensure that your child does not go over the line. This could include allowing them to watch the movie they really want to see, but only after they finish their homework assignment due tomorrow. It can also inform them about certain things that are off-limits, protecting the precious and fragile antiques you keep in your house and making sure they never disrespect their elders, even accidentally.
- Acknowledging your child’s needs
All adults have evolved into completely different beings, which is why it’s so important that we try to understand and empathise with the emotions that our child may be experiencing. Things that may now seem small and petty to us can actually be upsetting them a lot, and we shouldn’t immediately dismiss their concerns without hearing them out fully.
A large part of having healthy parenting boundaries with your child is understanding what their needs are. This includes acknowledging and expressing genuine interest in their hobbies, growth and individual personality development.
Many parents become overly restrictive and try to impose their own high standards upon their children. For example, your child could have a learning disability like ADHD, but you could blame their slow learning on not being attentive enough. This will only hurt the child and result in an irreparable emotional distance.
A part of teaching boundaries to children is to acknowledge and respect that your child has different needs than you.
- Having proper conversations
Many parents end up controlling every element of their children’s lives. This is unhealthy.
A significant part of maintaining healthy boundaries is through understanding each other. Your child may have an interest or passion that you might not know of. For instance, they might be interested in playing the guitar, whereas you might already be planning for them to attend university and become a doctor.
Unfortunately, a lot of parents end up disregarding their children’s boundaries and force them to follow the path they have planned out for the child instead, leading to severe resentment and feelings of hopelessness within the child.
Having a proper conversation helps you to identify what your kids are interested in and passionate about. Only once you understand them can you support them and help them become successful and independent individuals.
- Respecting each other’s personal space
Keeping healthy boundaries means respecting each other’s personal space. This can only be done once you educate your child about your personal space and let them know when they’re allowed to intervene.
Likewise, you should also acknowledge that your kid needs their own space, and you shouldn’t intrude on it for any reason.
Setting some time for yourself allows you to focus on your needs and self-care.
How to teach your children about boundaries
Setting boundaries for children’s behaviour can be complex for children to understand - they might still be too young to grasp the concept of personal space. However, building boundaries is a gradual process — they evolve with time, and you and your child will have to gradually learn to accept, improve, and implement them.
Here are some of the ways you can teach your child about boundaries:
- Talk about it🗣️
The very first step to initiating anything is by discussing it. Have a good talk with your child about what boundaries mean.
Making kids aware of such things helps them understand why implementing them is crucial. Directly ordering your kids not to do something might not work since they might not be able to understand why that particular thing is so important to you.
- Explain the natural consequences
Your kids might be clueless about why you are setting so many rules for the things they love doing.
Children have very little sense of what accountability means and can’t yet understand the concept of actions having inevitable consequences. For example, all they care about when it comes to eating lots of junk food is that it’s tastier than broccoli, not thinking about the long-term damage it may cause.
Starting a conversation that explains the why behind what you’re telling them to do helps them make better sense of such boundaries. For example, they might choose not to eat too much junk food after realising that it may upset their tummy and hamper their growth.
- Be patient 🙂
It goes without saying that children can sometimes be a handful to deal with.
Your kids will most certainly end up not respecting every single one of the boundaries you implement in their lives. It is highly probable that they will disobey you and may sometimes even go out of their way to do so.
However, even this becomes a learning opportunity for them since it will teach them how serious you are about keeping them in place. With enough repetition, they will quickly grasp that some things are non-negotiable and will willingly adhere to them in the future.
The key is to keep your patience and trust them because most kids will automatically begin acting with genuine responsibility as they mature. However, losing your patience could make you scold them aggressively, making them afraid and nervous.
Teaching kids requires time, effort, and love. There are many ways to keep them accountable, and maintaining a patient demeanour is of critical importance.
- Start small
You might get too carried away after learning about the importance of boundaries and end up writing an entire book of dos and don’ts for your kids. However, that might not be the best approach.
Kids have limited learning space when they are young. As a result, they might get overwhelmed by the introduction of dozens of new rules in the house. They might not be able to follow them if you don’t take the time to slowly and patiently explain everything to them in the first place.
If you start with small boundaries at first, it will become significantly easier for your kids to understand and follow them. Then, once they have managed to grasp the new changes to their behaviour, you can gradually coordinate with your child and introduce new boundaries at whatever frequency works best for you and your family.
- Set rewards
Setting rewards can be a good way to help your kids learn boundaries. You could understand their wants and reward them in exchange for adhering to the boundaries you have set. For example, if your kid wants a new doll or video game, you could buy it for them as a surprise reward if they’ve made it home before curfew every day for an entire week.
Using a reward system can help them make these new rules a habit. This way your child can learn quickly and happily!
- Avoid labels ❌
Many parents resort to using the ‘bad child, good child’ approach to parenting and can unfavourably compare their child to others who are either better-behaved or seem to be achieving more.
Setting rules and following them is essential; however, dangling your approval in front of them to coerce them into behaving a particular way can actually harm the child as they may feel only conditionally loved.
Labelling a child ‘bad’ for not respecting boundaries can also lead them to develop self-esteem issues. This might make them either work too hard to crave their parents’ approval, harming themselves in the process or gradually reject it entirely.
Furthermore, using labels can be counterintuitive as the child will only learn to work on the boundaries for their parents and not for themselves.