Setting Boundaries for Your Child

Setting Boundaries for Your Child

Why does your child need boundaries?

You can't get upset with your child about something he or she does if you haven't provided clear limits on what can and cannot be done. Have you ever had a friend or relative over with a child who does something you are not comfortable with? How about your own child at home or visiting someone? It all comes down to setting appropriate boundaries. How can you be upset with a child if you haven't provided your expectations to your little visitor? If you don't want children painting on your dining room table, then kindly offer a table where they can paint. Politely telling a child to respect things in your home so they can enjoy their time with their friends can get you a lot farther then saying, "Don't touch this or that." 

Provide the limit to your child with a positive statement and a reason as to why the limit is important.  

 Type of Boundary Negative Example Positive Example
Respecting Others Don't take your sister's iPad Ask your sister if it's ok to borrow her iPad. You'd want her to ask you.
Protection Don't open the door for strangers If you don't know who is at the door, keep the door locked so you are safe inside the house.
Chores Stop forgetting to clean your room When your room is neat and clean you can have a friend over and it will be easier to find your toys.
Curfew Don't come home late If you are able to make it home by your curfew you'll be able to see your friends again tomorrow after finishing your homework.


How do you set healthy boundaries for your child?

Keep the boundaries simple, fair and repeatable. Sometimes it may take more than one time to get your child to follow your instruction. Keeping the limit simple will make it easier for your child to remember what is expected of her. Mirroring behavior can help you achieve your goal too. Showing your child a book with the limit you would like to see followed or telling her about a time when a child did as she was told may really help reinforce what you are trying to achieve. A rewards chart may also be effective if your child is a visual learner or has expectations of receiving a reward for good behavior.

Ask your child if he understands what you have stated by having him repeat the boundary and positive result of following the instruction. This will also offer as a reminder when it comes time to follow your request.

Provide positive reinforcement when your child remembers the boundary and does what you have requested. This will increase the likelihood of your child to obey you. If you tell Johnny that his room looks great after he picks up his legos, he just may want to clean up more often. 

Remember that setting boundaries won't always be a home run initially. Your new method of setting limits may not be very popular with the kids when you first try it out. However, if you focus on positive consequences and praising your child when limits are followed you will be surprised at how quickly your child complies.

What kind of positive outcome is expected when boundaries are created?

Here is what is amazing about providing a positive example after setting a boundary for your child. It rewires your child's brain to understand the consequences of actions. Another huge plus is that it makes you look less whiny as a parent. The "don't do's" are eventually ignored by your child. Especially by the time the teen years set in. If you are constantly dwelling on the "stops" and "don'ts", you will be tuned out by even your very own spouse. You are investing in your child's future when you provide boundaries. When you give your child a boundary, his compliance will spill over into his behavior in school, with his sports team and in all kinds of situations outside of your home. You are preparing your child to respond in a safe and acceptable way when he is away from you. This gives you peace of mind when your child goes away to camp or leaves on a weekend trip with the grandparents. A well adjusted child who responds in reasonable ways is something well worth working toward.



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