Ask a group of parents or caregivers what their biggest challenge is with their kids, and setting boundaries will probably be a common pain point. Boundaries are different from rules, and they can be more difficult to set. While a rule is something that you make for your child, a boundary is something you set for yourself, like a personal bubble you don't want anyone to pop. We often feel okay with setting rules, but we find it more challenging to give that same importance to ourselves with boundaries.
Why is Setting Healthy Boundaries Important?
Healthy boundaries teach kids to respect the wishes of others. Everyone should have personal boundaries — including kids of all ages — to give themselves space and comfort. Showing children how to set boundaries in relationships at a young age builds their confidence in doing so and shows them that it's 100% okay to do.
5 Tips for Setting Boundaries with Kids
Try the following tips for setting boundaries with your kids:
1. Always Explain the "Why"
Your child needs to understand not just what boundary you're setting, but also the why behind it. For example, saying "For one hour each day, you need to find a quiet activity in your room to do" may not hold a lot of weight to a three-year-old. Instead, try saying, "From 3-4 PM, I like having alone time, so I can rest, recharge, and be the best parent I can be." Your little one will get a better idea that this is a healthy boundary that's important to you.
2. Be Consistent
You might experience pushback when you first set boundaries; that's completely normal. The trick is to be consistent with your child. If you have a no-interrupting rule, simply remind your child when they interrupt that you're talking and you'll listen to them when you've finished. Eventually, your youngster will learn that you're not faltering on the boundary you've set.
3. Form a Solid Team
Getting on the same page as your partner or other caregivers of your child can make setting boundaries so much easier. Keep the lines of communication open to ensure that everyone understands each other's boundaries and ensures that those lines aren't blurred.
4. Make a Boundaries List or Contract
Consider making a "rules list" for boundaries that everyone must adhere to. The list can include both your and your child's boundaries. Post the list in common areas, like the kitchen or living room, for easy reference each day. For older kids, you might have them sign a "contract" that explains each boundary and the consequences of overstepping it.
5. Be a Role Model They Can Rely On
You're the person your child looks up to day in and day out. Set a good example of adhering to other people's boundaries by doing so yourself. Be open with your child. Ask questions to make sure you understand their boundaries and follow them. Make it clear that you're always open to listening to them and respecting their wishes. Your youngster will see you prioritizing their wants and needs, setting an example of what they should do for others, too.
Healthy Boundaries in Relationships with Kids
Personal boundaries differ from rules. They help us enforce our personal bubble, keeping close the things we love and enjoy. They're necessary for mental health and wellness. Enacting boundaries is not only okay, but a must for any healthy relationship, including those with your kids. Teach healthy boundaries from a young age to show your child that it's completely normal — not selfish — to want certain things for themselves and to communicate that openly with others.