Setting Healthy Boundaries for Your Child – Why and How

Setting Healthy Boundaries for Your Child - Why and How

Child rearing psychology has been through many changes throughout the years. For instance, a few decades ago, parents made decisions for their kids. Children back then were even subjected to punishment. In recent times, the child-knows-best mode of rearing has come into place, with parents often allowing their little ones to choose for themselves. In theory, this is a great practice, but children cannot make right decisions, well not always. Hence, it should be a parent’s duty to help their kids find direction in life. You should focus on your child’s behaviour as well as on their emotional state, as nothing supersedes their mental health and peace of mind. Nevertheless, as a parent, you must ensure that you set healthy boundaries for your child, within which he can thrive and learn to handle the world around him. This article will explain how to establish boundaries for kids and the importance of setting limits.

Why Is It Important to Set Limits for Kids?

These days, it is observed that parents are considerably free with their kids, with no clear set boundaries. Sometimes this can be problematic. Below you will find a few reasons as to why you should set rules and boundaries for your children:

1. The Brain of Kids is Not Fully Developed

Children have prefrontal lobes that are not entirely formed. This leads to something known as “magical thinking” according to child psychologists. This allows them to live in a semi-imaginary world, which means they are not capable of making big decisions, hence parents should make important decisions for them. Children under the age of eight are less abstract in their thinking, making them less likely to know the better of two decisions. Of course, this excludes simple choices like what clothes to wear or which food to eat. Let them choose that.

2. Limits Make Kids Feel Protected

Young children thrive on routine and discipline. Establishing firm timelines for different activities will instil a sense of predictability, which in turn can lower uncertainty and anxiety. Yes,  there will be days when your child may rebel but make him understand that the boundaries you have set are for his own good. As he grows, he will realise that whatever you are doing is in his best interest and he will feel protected and cherished.

A son hugging his mother

3. Boundaries Interrupt Narcissistic Tendencies

It is not a good idea to allow your child to get control over you, especially when it comes to making important decisions. This will make them feel like they are the centre of the world, and can lead to narcissistic personality disorder. Children need to experience the feeling of disappointment and loss, so they can learn how to deal with these situations as adults. However, please ensure your boundaries for them are not dictatorial or extremely strict, as this can lead to trust issues in later years.

Tips to Set Boundaries for Children

If you are wondering about how to set limits for your child, then these tips will help you establish proper boundaries:

1. Don’t Expect Too Much

Please set limits keeping in mind the developmental stage of your child. For instance, toddlers find their way everywhere while older kids can refuse or demand reasons for your rules. Remember that it takes a while for them to cross these stages of growth, and set your rules accordingly.

2. Use a Warm and Friendly Tone

Be friendly with kids without letting them have their way. If you speak to your child in an angry tone or shout at him unnecessarily, it will scare him or make him feel nervous and he will be obliged to follow the boundaries. Frightened children will agree to your limits but not happily. Therefore, if you want your kid to follow the limits that you have set for him, speak to him in a gentle and friendly tone. First, make him feel relaxed and safe and then talk.

3. Be Clear in Your Approach

Don’t use words that can mean multiple things. For example, don’t tell your child you don’t want him to do or not do something specific. Instead, tell him softly what he is doing, why it is wrong, inappropriate or dangerous. Explain this gently and ask him to change his behaviour.

A mother explaining her child

4. Plan in Advance

It is important to strategise in advance, especially when it comes to setting limits for preschoolers. As parents, you should be aware of when your kid is most emotionally comfortable and when and where he begins to get fussy, nervous, or angry.

5. Let Your Child Complain

Your child will invariably complain about the limits you have set. This cannot be avoided. But it will certainly help if you react to his upset state with composure and understanding rather than being angry at him. Yes, he will complain in the beginning but later he will understand why you have set boundaries for him.

6. Remain Firm in Your Decisions

Do not waver once you set boundaries for your kid. Your child will complain initially, making you feel that you should give up but don’t. Be firm in your decisions and remember that you are doing it for your child’s good future. Set boundaries but change them as per circumstances.

7. Maintain Consistent Body Language

Keep your non-verbal cues consistent. This is important to maintain authority. Instead of intimidating your child with your height and body, crouch down to his level and maintain a neutral facial expression. Explain him about the rules you have set for him in a serious yet friendly tone and he will follow them.

8. Don’t Over Explain the Boundaries

Explain yourself once or twice, until your child understands what you mean. Don’t keep trying to get it through his head, as this will only annoy both of you.

9. Make Him Feel Protected

Be there for your child whenever he needs you or whenever you think he is in danger. For instance, if he insists on running across the road or tries to climb trees, hold his hand and stop him from doing so. Keep calm and remember that you must not ever touch your child when you are feeling enraged. Further, please keep an eye on the amount of force you are using, so your child does not feel pain. It is also necessary that you let him go once he calms down or is able to handle himself.

10. Be Humorous

Being funny always works. You can set your limits with songs, limericks, rhymes, anything that sounds entertaining and amusing. Use a funny voice or create a fictional character who is actually making the rules instead of you doing it. This will take less time than other tactics such as shouting or bribing your children.

How Do You Know If You Are Blurring Boundaries as a Parent?

It is possible to blur your boundaries as a parent. This is unhealthy for your relationship with your child as they need to see you as loving, warm, and protective but also as an authority figure. Here are a few signs to keep an eye out for:

  • Allowing your little ones to explore your personal space, either yours or your partners. This makes them feel like they are the centre of your world all the time.
  • Not allowing your child to do things which they are completely capable of. This makes them dependent on you for the most basic things.
  • Having an emotional reaction to your child’s outburst. This might make him feel like he can’t be emotionally available for you.
  • Continuously interrogating your little one about anything and everything. This will make him scared of you and will lead to distrust.
  • Allowing your kid to do whatever he wants without stopping him. When you do this, he does not see you as an authority figure.
  • Treating your child more like a peer than as a child. This might be fun for a short time but will lead to problems when you want him to follow certain rules.
  • Treating him as an extension of yourself, with his victories and losses being yours. This puts pressure on him to perform better to please you, causing unnecessary anxiety and stress.

Children will always push your tolerance, patience, and stress levels. This is something that you have in your complete control. Please understand that your child wanting to do more things by himself is a part of his development stage. It is up to you to guide him along the way so that he can make the right choices and correct decisions in his life. It can be easy to simply let your kid do what he wants instead of keeping firm limits. It is also easy to force strict military rules on a kid so that he is totally obedient. But neither of these techniques will make your child into a healthy or happy individual. Raising a child is a dynamic process, not a static one. You will not know everything in the beginning, but you can pick up a lot on the way. Once you define your limits and resolutely stick to them, your child will listen to you and look at your behaviour as something to be modelled.

Also Read: Healthy and Good Habits for Child to Learn