Setting boundaries with your child is extremely important. Healthy boundaries teach children self-discipline, safety and coping skills. Boundaries also teach children rules about what is acceptable behaviour, which is especially important when they start entering preschool.
Before you can teach your child about boundaries, you need to know what’s acceptable for you and your family. Every family has different values, so knowing what yours are will help you to set rules and limits that work within your family dynamic.
Why are boundaries important for children?
Children need to know what you expect. This helps them to know what is appropriate behaviour and helps to set a tone for a child’s emotional development. Other benefits of health boundaries include:
- Helping the child feel safe
- Helping to disrupt a child’s natural entitlement tendencies
- Helping the child to learn healthy limits
- Helping the child get ready for the real world
- Helping the child to feel secure
- Helping the child to learn healthy socialising
How to establish healthy boundaries in children
We all accept the lifelong benefits offered by healthy boundaries, but the challenge is often in the how. Establishing healthy boundaries can, at times, be challenging, but there are some easy ways to start the process, including:
- Setting rules, limits and routines: These help children to know what you expect of them, especially when it comes to meal times, bath time, bed time etc. Routines are especially powerful in helping kids to feel secure.
- Be clear: Don’t use vague or wishy-washy language. This creates confusion and makes it harder, especially for younger children to know what you expect of them.
- Be consistent: Doing one thing one day, and something else on another day, like letting them go to bed without brushing their teeth, when normally they have to brush their teeth leads to confusion. Mixed messages also send a message to your child that it’s ok to test your boundaries. Being consistent with consequences is especially important in helping children to know what to expect when rules and limits aren’t respected.
- Be firm, but not cold: A warm tone goes a long way. Yelling only triggers the fight or flight response, and should only be used in emergencies. Getting angry also models unhealthy behaviour for your child.
- Acknowledge and praise their efforts: When your children do the right thing, you should acknowledge it. This encourages and provides a further incentive to keep up the desirable behaviour.
Over to you
Are you struggling to establish healthy boundaries with your kids? Have you tried any of our suggestions? Do you have any tips for what has worked for you and your family?
Disclaimer: The information here is provided on a general basis. You’re encouraged to consult with an expert who can consider your individual situation.