Setting boundaries can be difficult for adults. This is because many of us are not taught about establishing healthy boundaries as children. It can take years to perfect this skill. Yet lots of us do not learn how to advocate for ourselves until later in life.
As a parent, you can start teaching your child about the importance of boundaries today. You do not have to wait until they get older! If your child learns how to set boundaries at a young age, they will have a much easier time feeling secure in their relationships as they grow up.
Here’s how to teach your child about boundaries today.
When to Get a Grown Up
First, it’s always important to let your child know when they should reach out to someone else for help. The first step in learning about healthy boundaries involves teaching your child about what to do in situations that feel unsafe or uncomfortable.
Remind them that if someone makes them feel scared or anxious, or if they worry that something is wrong, they always have the right to seek support from a grown-up. You might even describe these as “get a grown-up” situations. Talk to your child about examples of these situations so that they know how to react.
Model Healthy Boundary-Setting
Parents can always lead by example. When it comes to boundaries, practicing what you preach is key! Set your own boundaries with confidence and communicate clearly if someone tries to trespass those boundaries.
Showing your children that setting boundaries means demonstrating self-respect is key. Demonstrate that they have the right to do it, just like you do. Children love to imitate their parents—it’s how they learn!
Talk to your child about times when they might need to set a boundary without necessarily going to ask a grown-up for help.
For example, what if a relative wants to give them a hug, but they don’t feel comfortable with that kind of contact? Tell your child that they could offer a handshake or a high-five instead. What if a classmate insults them while playing? Remind them that they can always speak up for themselves, and if this does not work, they can talk to an adult.
Respect Your Child’s Limits
Part of teaching your child about boundaries means respecting your child’s boundaries! Yes, as a parent, there are times when you need to step in and set your own rules. For instance, if your child insists on staying up well past bedtime on a school night. But at other times, giving them more agency and allowing them to set their own boundaries can be a good learning experience.
What if your child seems overwhelmed by their schedule and wants to participate in fewer extracurricular activities? It’s worth talking to them about where they would like to step back.
Remember, it’s important for your child to learn about respecting other people’s boundaries, too. This means teaching your child to focus on empathy. Even young children with a sweet disposition can struggle to put themselves in the shoes of someone else.
If your child seems to have a problem with someone else’s boundaries—like a friend not wanting to share a special toy—remind them that this person’s feelings are important, and they have the right to set limits. Encourage them to think about their friend’s perspective for a moment so they can understand why their friend has a specific boundary.
Are you wondering how you can teach your child to set healthier boundaries? Therapy can help. Reach out to us today to discuss your options for scheduling your first session.