It is only normal for a child to want to try anything and everything. It is important that parents encourage this sense of inquisitiveness and curiosity within their children as these traits allow room for mistakes to happen — which just so happens to be an important aspect of children’s learning process. And it is through this that children learn how to practice boundaries.
Just like our muscles, boundaries need to be built and flexed. Occasionally, kids should be allowed to bend the rules to allow room for them to express their individuality. However, if this exception is made too often, it may lead your child to develop behavioral issues such as disobedience later on.
The goal here is to educate our kids on how to test boundaries healthily and to be responsible when it is due.
What are Boundaries?
Boundaries include one’s personal space (physical, emotional, and needs). Setting boundaries will inform others on how they should treat you.
Not setting boundaries may restrict someone from being their true self. So, when others put their priorities above your needs, they may or may or not necessarily be selfish – it might be that they’ve set boundaries that you are not aware of.
Why Do Children Need to Learn About Practicing Healthy Boundaries?
Practising healthy boundaries is crucial instilling confidence at an early age.
It Builds a Strong Sense of Self
Lack of boundaries distorts children’s perception of themselves, blurring the lines between self-esteem and narcissism.
A child who has never practised healthy boundaries would, later on, develop narcissistic tendencies where they do not respect other people’s boundaries and develop a sense of entitlement.
To prevent this from happening, teach your child about setting healthy boundaries in which we will explore later on in this article.
It Creates Tolerance and Understanding
When boundaries are understood by two people, there will be fewer arguments or misunderstandings between them.
Children are often told what to do. Therefore, when parents grant their children the authority to be part of a conversation or a decision-making process, it empowers them. This also ensures that children take accountability for their actions and decisions.
When parents do this, their children will behave and act according to the boundaries set. Without this, children will most likely see their parents as an obstacle to getting what they want.
How to Set Healthy Boundaries
Now, let’s take a look at what are the necessary steps in successfully setting healthy boundaries with your child. Begin by setting a good example for your child.
Be Consistent and Reasonable
When you have made a decision, go through with it. This way, your child learns what a boundary is. It is non-negotiable but it can be challenged from time to time.
However, only allow your child to challenge boundaries when it is within reason. For example:
You have a curfew set at 8:00 p.m.
Your reason for this is to set a good balance between schoolwork and leisure. Leisure activities can be done during the day.
During the night, your child must focus on doing their schoolwork.
If your child would like to challenge this boundary by requesting more leisure time, it should be made on the grounds that they are able to manage their studies.
This can be assessed through your child’s school grades and academic performance. You can even ask your child to recap what they’ve learned at school every day and think about how they may apply what they’ve learned in the real world.
What happens if you discover that your child has not been truthful with the reason provided
Firstly, confront your child and encourage them to come clean. Let them know that it is important to practise honesty but at the same time, show understanding to your child’s position.
If your child refuses to be truthful, the consequences should be heavier. What happens if you found that there were missing or half-truths to what your child has been saying- for example, grades that they shared were of tests and not examinations.
Confessed to the lie ? Grounded for a few weeks
No confession ? Grounded for a few weeks with deduction of pocket money
Keep It Short and Simple
This may seem counterintuitive but your child will understand instructions easier when they are kept short and simple.
It is not strange that children love to question things but if we scrutinize everything that they do, it will leave little to no room for them to express their creativity and make decisions on their own.
Some children might be a little bit more reserved and shy to ask questions — this is when parents step in, initiate conversations and provide lengthy answers to encourage discussions with their children.
To set healthy boundaries, try this: Keep the instructions short but discussions long.
To initiate a conversation about setting healthy boundaries, here are great icebreaker questions:
What have you been doing lately? (If the boundary had a huge impact on the child)
How have you been?
How do you feel ever since (boundary)? Why?
What if we did (break the boundary) or I started (breaking the boundary)?
How the conversation would look like:
You: Hey, how have you been doing lately?
Child: Horrible. I can’t watch videos while having dinner and I have to rush to bed.
You: How do you feel about it?
Child: I don’t enjoy it. I feel rushed all the time. I’m bored and tired of it.
You: What if we didn’t have this rule and when during dinner, we don’t talk instead?
You: And when you talk to me, I’ll just ignore you and continue working.
Conversations such as this nurture empathy within our children. It teaches them to think for others and promotes selflessness.
The Iron Rule
Every household has an iron rule. The iron rule serves as a principle in seeding certain values within a household. Under no circumstance should the iron rule be broken by any member of the family.
If the iron rule is, ‘Never make a person wait for you’
The values taught would be:
In many households, the iron rule is to ‘never touch alcohol or other contrabands’.
The values taught would be:
Establishing the iron rule helps to set boundaries more comprehensively. It clearly communicates what is allowed or not allowed to our children. As mentioned earlier, boundaries need to be flexed. Parents need to allow room for their children to practise good moral values and in turn, cultivate healthy boundaries within the household.
A Word from Q-dees
Parenting is a lifelong journey. When one becomes a parent, they will soon need to make lifelong commitments that involve empathizing with the needs of their children to decide what’s best for them.
Hence, when setting boundaries, it is important for a parent to ask themselves
“What do I want our children to value?”
Parents can only go so far as to guide and make decisions for their children. Once children have reached a certain age, they only have themselves to guide them through adulthood and beyond.