We’re all trying to do our best as parents, but sometimes what we think is the best thing for our children turns out to be the exact opposite. But how do you know when a parenting decision is good or bad for a child? It’s hard to tell, but bearing in mind your child’s personal boundaries is a major part of that.
What are boundaries and why do children need them?
Your boundaries. Your personal bubble. Your space. Whatever you call that imaginary line that you don’t want people to cross is what your boundaries are. Imagine the way you feel when somebody crosses your boundary. It makes you uncomfortable, right?
Now imagine how a child feels while they’re learning their boundaries and somebody does something they don’t like. Whether it’s on purpose or accidental, a child’s boundary should be respected just as much as our own.
Helping your child establish boundaries
So how do you help your child establish boundaries? Teach them. Teach them what boundaries are and help them decide where they want to draw their boundary line. Boundaries are especially important to introduce to your child as soon as possible because it allows for a much more open relationship between you two.
Both you and your little one will need to vocalize your boundaries too. They’ll be no good if nobody else knows what is and isn’t okay with you and the same for your child.
How we accidentally violate a child’s boundaries
Instead of just talking the talk, you’ll have to walk the walk too. There are going to be times when we’ll cross boundaries by accident, but some of the most common but also unknown ways we violate a child’s boundaries are coming completely out of love. You may not even realize you’re doing it.
Here are the five biggest ways we accidentally violate children’s boundaries.
Not giving them the independence they need
When we do everything for them, we smother them and this robs them of the most basic boundary there is: independence.
We severely underestimate just how clever and independent children can be. I think it’s because we just get so caught up in making sure they are loved and taken care of that we don’t realize when we start doing everything for them.
Have you ever met an average three-year-old? They thrive on independence. By letting them practice this early on, they’re going to be better equipped to live independently as they grow older.
Insisting on hugs and kisses
This is perhaps the most common way we slip up. Hugging and kissing are just how humans show affection, so of course, we want our children to know this. The thing is though, if they don’t feel comfortable doing it, then why force it?
You can avoid this problem by encouraging your child to express their love through words instead. “I was happy to see you” and “I love you” are good phrases to practice.
The “My Way or the Highway” Mentality
Another pretty common way we violate boundaries is by refusing to acknowledge your child’s perspective. As parents, we’re meant to be the rule makers and enforcers. However, sometimes we take this too seriously. I’m definitely guilty of the “because I said so.”
When children act out, it’s never for no reason. When they question something, it’s not just because they don’t want to do it (though sometimes it is). By taking the time to hear your child out and take their thoughts seriously, you’re helping them learn to be effective communicators while respecting their mental boundary too.
Dismissing their emotions as “terrible twos” or the “threenager” phase
I am in the thick of this right now. It honestly feels like the minute my daughter turned three, she decided to skip right into the teenage years. The back talk and the eye rolls and the reluctance to do anything is enough to make any parent crazy.
As close to the brink it may take you, it’s important to remember that they’re acting this way for a reason. They’re developing into their own little human being and becoming a more independent.
It’s important that you validate their emotions by letting them know you understand how they’re feeling, but also being firm enough to tell them that there are healthier ways to express those big emotions.
By remaining calm and teaching them to communicate their feelings you’re protecting your boundaries and helping your child solidify theirs.
Surrounding your child with negative people
Okay, so maybe “surrounding” is too intense a word. The point of this one is that what your child sees is how they learn to behave. If your child sees mostly negative behavior, they’re going to think that type of behavior is okay.
This is going to cause them to have unstable and unhealthy boundary standards.
This is a hard thing to regulate because most of the time, those negative people are your family. This is something I’ve struggled with as a parent with toxic family members and I still struggle pretty frequently.
As much as it may hurt, you need to think about the way these toxic people are acting and if you want your child to be exposed to that kind of behavior. Once you go through that process, it makes making that decision a lot easier.
Now, go set some boundaries together!
Let’s face it, none of us are perfect. I’ve been guilty of these mistakes before and I’ll probably slip up plenty more in the future. It makes me kind of sick to think that I haven’t respected my child the way that I should have, but as long as I’m working to be better then I’d say I’m doing pretty okay.
If you only take away one thing from this article, let it be this. Your child is the most precious and impressionable person in your life. It’s your job to help them grow and thrive in their mental, physical and emotional health and set the stones for them to have healthy relationships with healthy boundaries.