Setting Boundaries with Children - A Coach Explains
Boundaries: many parents struggle with this. You are not alone and you are completely normal! Learning how to set healthy boundaries with your children is not only beneficial for you, it teaches invaluable lessons to your child. This way, they will learn how to appropriately set boundaries and foster healthy, respectful and loving relationships with others.
Understanding Boundaries with Children
From my many years in the classroom, I definitely experienced the benefits of having boundaries with kids, and I also experienced their cunning plans to test them. I must admit, sometimes they won. They had good reasons, or they could do cute faces or some good bargaining; or the consequences weren’t super "severe" for me as a teacher. At the end of the day, I was only responsible for facilitating and providing a learning environment, not raising a well-rounded individual, fit for society.
Having said that, I’m aware of the challenge of sticking to your boundaries. The kind of boundaries I’m referring to here were fairly inconsequential classroom rules, but for you as a parent they are obviously different. Parents face different challenges than those of a classroom teacher and more complex, challenges that fit the nature of your relationship, but the principles are the same.
The Challenge of Setting Boundaries
Kids need to test boundaries in order to feel safe and grow. What I hear from a lot of parents is a lot of guilt and insecurity when it is time to apply them. Boundaries are good. But why do we feel guilty about them?
Parents tend to feel guilt about the rules they make and insecurity whether they are making the right choice. The first step to put these feelings aside is to focus on learning to establish healthy boundaries. This might help you regain your confidence and feel less insecure about the limits you set for your child.
2 Helpful Tips To Keep In Mind
1. Maintain the boundaries:
Narrow or wide, it doesn't matter. As long as you maintain these boundaries. What is important is the reason why you choose to set boundaries. They can be as narrow as you like, or as wide; the key feature is that you maintain them.
Keep in mind that your aim is to provide safe boundaries for your children and to instil in them the knowledge of what is good and safe for them. You have been at this life much longer than they have, (and even if you don’t have all the answers, that’s okay!). Boundaries are about safety and respecting rules – essential life skills. You aren’t trying to control your child. You are trying to keep them safe and happy.
2. Making mistakes can also be a valuable lesson for them:
Sometimes you’ll make mistakes; that’s okay. Good is good enough. Admit when you get it wrong to your child, say a genuine sorry and move on (don’t try to apologise by "buying" their forgiveness). You are always modelling to them on how to behave and this includes also the case of making mistakes.
You’re not perfect, and they won’t be either – sorry – we are only human beings after all. We can’t control everything that happens and that’s okay – what is important is how we react.
Be confident in your parenting decisions and defend yourself in there. If you are unsure, that’s okay, but you are the parent and they are the children, and not the other way round.
Trust yourself. You’re doing a great job!
You’ve got this!
By Jessica Zonneveld, Childrens' Coach
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