• Dr. Rachel Kramer

October 24: Setting Healthy Boundaries

Last week I presented a parent workshop at a local school about ‘Setting Healthy Boundaries’ and I thought I would share some of that information in today’s post. Setting and holding boundaries is a very broad topic and, depending on the age(s) and developmental stage(s) of your child(ren), may include the following types of statements:

  • “In our family we don’t hurt anyone and I won’t let anyone hurt you.”

  • “I see that you are grabbing the whole box of crackers. You may have one cracker for each hand.”

  • “The rule in this house is that everyone who is riding a bike or scooter wears a helmet.”

  • “In 5 minutes, it will be time to turn off your iPad.”

  • “Would you like to practice piano right after snack or do you want some time to run around outside first?”

Rather than jump directly into the ‘how to’ of holding boundaries, I find it useful for parents to pause for a moment and consider some broader questions about the topic. Over the next week or so, see if you can set aside 10-15 minutes to give some thought to these prompts:

  • What methods of behavior management, limit setting, or discipline were used in my childhood?

  • Outside of parenting, when do I have a strong ability to hold boundaries?

  • Alternatively, when do I find it especially challenging to hold a boundary? Examples:

  • Am I a people pleaser who finds it difficult to say no to others?

  • Is it difficult for me to hold a boundary in emotionally charged situations?

  • Do the dynamics of my relationships with certain people in my life make it particularly challenging for me to hold boundaries with them?

  • How do I hold boundaries with my children now?

  • When do I feel confident holding a boundary as a parent?

  • What parts of limit setting or holding boundaries with my family are challenging for me?

  • Are there things that I would like to do differently with respect to setting boundaries? Examples:

  • Do I rely on threatening to withhold things from my child more than I would like to?

  • Do I yell or raise my voice more than I would like to when my child does not respond to limit setting?

  • Do I fall into a pattern of negotiating with my child when I am trying to hold a boundary?

  • What am I trying to teach my children when I hold a boundary?

Some parents may prefer to ponder their answers to these questions privately, while others may find it useful to use the prompts to initiate a conversation about setting boundaries in the context of parenting with a partner, friend, or family member. Setting aside time to reflect on these questions can help you approach intense moments with your children from a more thoughtful, well-reasoned perspective.

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