I’m sure that we’ve all heard of the term “boundaries” at some point in time. Boundaries are simply limits that we set for ourselves in terms of how we behave or how we want other people to treat us. Many people may feel that boundaries are restrictive in nature, but in reality, they are meant to protect us and to respect our own limitations as people. Yes, I said limitations. I know that this word tends to get people irritated, but it is a necessary word. We all have limits and places where we don’t feel comfortable going. This is especially true when it comes to our children. As parents, it’s our job to teach our children how to follow and respect rules. It is also our job to teach our children how to set limits for themselves. Teaching our children boundaries is one of the most important lessons that we will ever give them. This brings to mind a couple of questions that we must ask. How do we set boundaries with our children? How do we teach our children how to set boundaries?
First, we have to recognize our own limits as parents. Many parents tend to not really pay attention to their own limits when it comes to their children. In fact, if most of us are honest, we tend to focus on trying to go past those limits because our children tend to need us a lot. While meeting our children’s needs is top priority, we also need to know how to respect our own imperfections and personal challenges as parents. We are not meant to meet every single demand of our children, and it is unhelpful to teach them to expect that from every one else in life. Setting a boundary that respects our limits as parents teaches children how to respect other people’s limits and not to push past them.
Second, we have to have realistic expectations of what rules or boundaries our children can respect versus what they can’t. I’ve seen some families that tend to have very high expectations when it comes to their children’s conduct to the point where the child is basically treated as a mini adult, or as a soldier in a platoon. The point of rules is to protect our children from possible dangers and to teach them the difference between right and wrong. If you expect perfection from your children, then you will be sorely disappointed as a parent and you may even drive your child away. Setting realistic boundaries for your child, will help them with building up their confidence and having a deep respect for boundaries.
Third, we have to be consistent when we set boundaries or rules with our children. The biggest disservice we can give to our children is to not be consistent with them when it comes to boundaries. Inconsistent boundaries can send a very poor message to our kids such as we don’t care enough about them to be consistent people in our words or even our actions. Consistency provides safety to a child not just physically, but mentally and emotionally as well. When our kids see that we are consistent, they know that they can trust us completely as someone that will be there and still be the same no matter what.
Fourth, we have to be willing to admit our own mistakes when it comes to things that we say or do. Admitting our own mistakes and taking responsibility for them teaches our kids two very important lessons. We are not perfect people and we will have to take responsibility for our mistakes at every age and stage in life. We also can’t be too proud that we make mistakes as adults and embrace our own imperfections. If we can model these two lessons, our children will learn how to own up to their mistakes as well as embrace their own imperfections as people.
Finally, we have to be willing to take whatever emotions our children show us in response to us setting boundaries. There are times when our children will not be happy with the rules and limits we set and they may show strong emotions as a result. We cannot, however, change boundaries that we set because our children may not agree with them one hundred percent. I should put a disclaimer here for you all to see here. Our children will test our boundaries. Note how I put emphasis on the words “will test.” The reason for this is they want to see if that these limits are real, and they want to know if they will hold up to them pushing them. Sticking with our boundaries may make our children upset, but it will help them over the course of time by teaching them the difference between right and wrong, as well as how to respect others.
Setting boundaries with our children is not easy for us to do. There are times when we might feel like the villain for saying no or setting any kind of limit. But teaching our children to accept boundaries is an essential relational skill. If our children learn to respect our limits at home, they can respect the limits of their friends, co-workers, or romantic partners as they get older.