The lack of rules, law and order is complete and utter chaos. It’s anarchy, people! A home without clear-cut boundaries is also chaotic, unhealthy and plain old stressful! Boundary-setting is so important for creating structure, comfort and calmness and it can be done in an “authoritative” style or “democratic” style.
Here are some suggestions for boundary-setting, but first, let’s define what an interpersonal boundary is (according to www.sfhelp.org): A boundary or limit is the dividing line between what behavior you’ll tolerate from others without reacting… Interpersonal boundaries help define your personal identity, integrity, relationships, and security.
What are the benefits of boundaries in families?
- Encourages feelings of stability/comfort for children (MindBodyGreen)
- While asserting boundaries might be challenging for parents at first, it instils a sense of peace and order
- Discourages sentiments of entitlement and narcissism (MindBodyGreen)
- Helps kids learn healthy relationship habits by respecting others
What are some of the methods for creating boundaries?
- Define your boundaries. There’s no point on setting a boundary if kids don’t know what’s expected of them or what’s appropriate. Use clear language and ask kids if they understand what you mean. Also, If you say “no” and they pester you a little more, don’t cave and say “yes”. Kids then learn that by pushing more buttons they can eventually get you to cave in.
- Work with other adults/authority figures in your kids’ lives. Work closely with your spouse or your child’s caretakers. Ever heard or seen a child go to one parent because they know that parent is the “yes” parent? Chat with your spouse or other caretakers about boundaries and why it’s important to be on the same page. Kids need consistency otherwise they will push boundaries and it might end up pitting other adults against each other (your child’s parents/caretakers need to be strong and support the growth and development of a child!). If your child asks you something, perhaps say, “let me talk it over with your mom/dad”. (All Pro Dad)
- Include kids with part of the rule-setting. Try defining a problem and let your kids be part of the brainstorming process for a solution. Also communicate what fair consequences are for crossing the line. (All Pro Dad)
How to encourage respect for boundaries:
- Natural consequences. Punitive measures to boundary setting and enforcement are increasingly seen as having negative side-effects in the mental health of kids and teens. A natural consequence might be a little more suitable for allowing kids to realize that all of their choices have consequences. When kids get older, the natural consequences might be a little more intense. Teaching them about consequences (age-appropriate) is a good way to let them experience what their decisions really mean. ( All Pro Dad)
- Communicating the consequences for not respecting boundaries. It’s effective and clear to say to a child, “please clean your room before (whatever reasonable date/time), or you will have to miss out on the sleepover you’d like to go to this weekend.” The child is then empowered to make a choice that will allow them to get what they want, while following the rules. If at first they resist, keep on with your boundaries/natural consequences. It won’t be long before they realize they can get what they want and still respect boundaries.
- Have a “yes” day. Have a day where you spoil your kid with a whole lotta yes’s! Take a break from rules (within reason!) and focus on *them* for the day.
- Invite kids to discuss alternative rules/responsibilities. Be open minded to suggestions from your kids. If a boundary/natural consequence is causing more harm than good, then work to find alternative solutions!
- Don’t make everything about rules! Life is also supposed to be fun. Surprise your beloved children with something they like to do every once in a while.
- Speak your child’s love language. Pouring in to your kids is just as important (or more important) than always expecting things/behaviour of them.
- Focus on Growth Mindset. Breaking a boundary, dealing with consequences is truly an opportunity for improvement and/or discussion.
Hope this list is a good start for boundary-setting in your home. Please feel free to post suggestions/tips/tricks below.