The Importance of Boundaries

Posted on 01st Dec 2021 in Guest Speaker, The Junior School

Karen Beveridge is a Neuro-Developmental and Sound Therapist specialist. This term, Karen ran a session for ESMS Nursery parents about boundaries and how they help create a greater sense of safety and security. The session provided some really helpful insight on what can be one of the more challenging aspects of parenting, so we asked Karen to extend her advice to parents across ESMS: 

Children need boundaries

Boundaries are necessary to help children grow into respectful, confident adults. However necessary your rules and boundaries are, children often push and fight against them, and will test limits. This is normal and necessary for healthy development. Limits help children feel safe, but young people also need freedom to try things out, make mistakes and develop their independence. Boundaries help children learn how to set limits for themselves and develop self-discipline.

When it comes to using social media and technology, limits can be very useful. The digital world is exciting for young people and they require help to manage a reasonable balance between online and offline time. Some boundaries are non-negotiable such as ensuring the safety of your child and others. Others will be more flexible. When setting your boundaries remember they will be personal to your family, but here are some guidelines:

Know your child

While age is a factor, remember there is a wide developmental range. Not all eight year-olds develop at the same rate. Setting boundaries that work will be much easier if your expectations for their behaviour match where they are developmentally.

Stay consistent

Children need clarity in relation to limits and boundaries. They will not thrive or survive without them, and neither will you! Rules that are clear and simple are easier to stick to. Children’s memories for rules aren’t that good so you may find yourself repeating them. Make sure that they know what is expected and what the consequence(s) will be if your rules are broken.

Define YOUR boundaries

It is important to develop boundaries for yourself. To do this you have to know what you value, think and where you stand. This is not always easy to define, but it’s so important that your child knows who you are and what you believe. This doesn’t mean being rigid; it means you communicate your personal values and stick to them. For example, if your value is to be honest then talk it and walk it. Children are guided in life by watching what you do. This makes more of an impression than what you say. Modelling is the best tool for learning. If you limit their phone time and you have yours beside you at all times it gives a mixed message. Do as I say rather than do as I do. How did you react to that as child?

Discuss with your children your guiding principles. Can you as parents agree on two or three key principles? Notice in coming up with this list that you are not attempting to control your child, but rather you are taking charge of yourself. Consistency is vital.

Allow room for negotiation

Children are more likely to stick to the boundaries they help create. Making sure they know the reasons behind rules will help prepare them to regulate their own behaviour as they grow up. Talk to your children about how you expect them to behave and give them the chance to voice their opinions. Pick your battles carefully and don't over burden your child with too many rules. The boundaries need to be reviewed regularly with the young person involved in the discussion.

Recognise the good behaviours

Try not to focus on the negative. Acknowledge when your children are following rules and sticking to the boundaries – especially if they’ve found this hard before. Giving praise will encourage them.

Let your child feel the impact of a crossed boundary

Help your children experience the impact of crossing boundaries. Admit when you have crossed someone else’s boundary and apologise for it. When your children cross one, let them know and hold them accountable. Let’s say you promise your child that you will drive them to their friends after completing chores. But this is ignored, say playing video games instead. If you follow through by not driving them, that experience helps develop an understanding on a deep level what you expect for yourself. They will know that you respect yourself and mean what you say

If they have made a poor choice don’t labour the point. Remind them of the consequence. Even if they react negatively to this discipline remind them, saying ‘I know you are disappointed and upset but you can make a different choice next time.'

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