Boundaries are to protect life, not to limit pleasures.
Edwin Louis Cole
For those who read my posts and may not know, I am a gynecologist who does physical examinations on potentially sexually assaulted children. This can be a grim task. That is why I am writing today about boundaries. Teaching our children about boundaries is the best way to help them protect themselves in the future.
It is vitally important to teach your children boundaries early in life. Even when your children are quite small, it is important to begin instructing them about the boundaries that should exist between themselves and others. A child who grows up in a home having healthy limits will also learn to apply such boundaries in his own life.
What Does “Boundary” mean?
A boundary signifies a limit that a person has. Such limits can be either physical or emotional.
Physical boundaries. This boundary limit is physical and tangible, like one’s body parts. Explaining to your child that his body belongs only to him and nobody else teaches him or her to develop a sense of their physical self. Explaining, “Daddy’s body belongs to him” and “Your body belongs to you” is a great place to start.
Emotional boundaries. Another type of boundary can be more emotional than physical. Teaching children that it is not okay to say hurtful things to others is an example of an emotional boundary. Teasing or bullying would be other ways of crossing a person’s emotional boundary.
In a sense, boundaries are rules that you choose to live by. Living with boundaries basically means two things. It means first that, I won’t do anything to harm you. It also means that I expect you not to do anything to harm me, but if you do, I will let you know.
How do you each boundaries?
When you are raising children to have healthy boundaries, it’s important to allow the children to have and express their own feelings. This one can be difficult for some parents. It is not unusual for parents to squelch a child’s healthy behavioral and natural expression.
For example, if a 4-year-old starts crying and stomps his feet, what would you do as the parent? One healthy strategy to ensure your 4-year-old develops healthy boundaries is to help him label his feelings. Try saying something like, “I see that you are feeling frustrated that you can’t have the candy right now. Perhaps you can have some candy after dinner.” Then, move on with your life.
You have helped him to label his emotions. You chose not to punish him or demand that he stop crying or that he try to straighten up right this instant. As the parent, you have just shown acceptance of your child’s feelings. Each time you behave in this way, you are reinforcing your child’s natural sense of self and boundaries.
Sometimes, you will need to explain some boundary situations or “rules” to your child. For example, explaining to a child that no one except the doctor when Mom or Dad is also present should touch the child where their bathing suit fits is an effective way to begin to teach a child the limits and boundaries related to his own body.
Ultimately, the single best way to teach children, or anyone else for that matter, about healthy boundaries is for parents to have healthy boundaries themselves and to model them.
Showing respect for each person in your house, ensuring that everyone has the right to their feelings and appropriate expressions of them, and talking openly and honestly about any challenging issues demonstrate healthy boundaries for your children.
From the moment that your children enter into your lives, you are charged to teach them many things so that they will grow up to be happy, healthy and producive members of society. Teaching your children about limits and boundaries shows your kids a truly healthy way to live.
Parents who ensure their children grow up learning about limits and boundaries provide a solid foundation for their children’s futures. try applying some of these methods as you teach your kids about having and maintaining healthy limits and boundaries. Your kids will not only survive, they will thrive!
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