By David Jones
So many things are involved in trying to raise strong, healthy children.
Some seem really obvious like diet, exercise, and being grateful. But there’s a particular social building block we don’t want to neglect—boundaries.
Healthy boundaries are the foundation on which we build social lives resistant to bullying, being used and abused, victimization, and harmful discomfort. And like any foundation, it’s best to set it before we add walls and a roof, because establishing one afterward is way harder.
Here are some ideas for the mindful parent:
1. Parents are the child’s models. By developing and maintaining our own boundaries, our children can see the principles at work, which can be more effective than just lecturing.
2. Boundaries are for other people too. Help your child recognize that, just as they have boundaries and want them to be respected, other folks do too.
3. Be an ally for your child, and teach them to be allies when possible. It’s easier to be steadfast when someone stands with us, someone who takes it all as seriously as we do.
4. Consider being transparent. While working out your child’s boundaries with them, it can be helpful to let them know if you struggle with boundaries in certain situations. Letting them know we all struggle sometimes can help them feel less alone when boundaries get undermined or seem to be in the way of a desired relationship
5. Build that self-esteem and sense of self-worth. Your child is important and intrinsically valuable as a person, certainly worthy of respect and self-determination. Children who develop healthy self-worth are better able to resist exaggerated views of themselves. Plus, no one else gets to determine their value.
6. Remember body autonomy and the concept of consent. This is one of the most crucial boundaries a child can develop, and over time can be the most challenged. Particularly in sexual settings, downplaying consent and arguing for or forcing compliance with sexual advances is another form of bullying. It’s theft to demand you hand over something that’s yours, and it can open the door to violence and regret..
7. Help them know how to deal with bullies or others who try to circumvent their boundaries. Not everyone they get involved with have been taught about boundaries. Perhaps a boy or young man has been taught that men should be dominant and forceful. Maybe a girl or young woman has been taught to use persuasion or peer pressure to manipulate others.
8. Boundaries need to be maintained and enforced. Strong limits can weaken or even dissolve over time or when faced with an outstanding situation. Like an automobile, our boundaries need to be checked and have periodic maintenance. Also, boundary violations should carry consequences, which need to be communicated clearly.
9. Having boundaries is healthy and necessary. They aren’t rude or stupid, no matter how someone else may feel about them. When tested, how might our children stand up for their limits when someone insults them for it? What if the only way they can be with someone—a friend, a romantic partner, or any other—is if they agree to waive their boundaries and autonomy? It’s important to set strategies early.
10. Being assertive without being rude. Some might feel that maintaining our boundaries with them is rude, unfriendly, or disrespectful because of how they have or haven’t been taught about such interpersonal limits. We don’t need to be rude in how we enforce them. Balance, consistency and communication are key.
11. Sometimes success can leave us feeling guilty. Even when we say, “No” and they say, “Okay, that’s cool” we can still feel guilty about it. Help your child learn to sit with that guilt, examine it, and understand where it’s actually coming from.
12. Finally, help them to know that things happen sometimes. They will still be loved, they will be safe with us. Even if our boundaries fail, that doesn’t make us failures. Even if we’re disappointed in ourselves, we’re only human and not machines. And falling down doesn’t mean we have to stay down. We will get back up, face the consequences of that fall, and try again.
When we help children establish boundaries early, they set a vital foundation that’ll help them stay healthier in every relationship they have.
Did you love this piece? Tip the author! Help support writers: paypal/donate
- Integration After Satori: Struck By the Lightning, Living in the Thunder - May 19, 2023
- What is Beginner’s Mind? - May 13, 2023
- Parenting Mindfully and Discipline - May 8, 2023