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TAL wooden fence

What are boundaries?

Boundaries are simply what you are prepared to accept or not accept in yourself and when interacting with others. Children are born with a completely clean slate and have no boundaries whatsoever. All they know is survival – I’m hungry, I’m cold etc and it is up to us, as parents, to teach our children what is acceptable and what is not as they grow. 

Behaviour is the obvious example of where boundaries need to be set. How can your children know what behaviour is acceptable or not if you do not show them? It is not acceptable for your child to snatch – ever. This is a firm boundary and as a parent, it is your job to make sure that your child understands this. Repetition is how children learn boundaries so every time they snatch something, the item must be taken away while telling or showing the child what the acceptable behaviour is. Keep telling or showing the correct behaviour until the child does not snatch any more. Your behaviour will dictate their behaviour, so always remember that your child is watching you, and if you snatch, they will not trust the boundary and will not learn the behaviour you are trying to teach them.

Why are boundaries important?

Boundaries = Security. It really is that simple. If you want your child to feel secure, boundaries are non-negotiable.  They tell children what is acceptable and what is not. If sometimes snatching is acceptable and sometimes it is not, how can your child know how to behave? How will they feel when you suddenly reprimand them for snatching when five minutes ago you did not? How can they feel secure if you are not consistent?

Routine is also a type of boundary. It is a consistent sequence of events which the child can rely on. When setting a routine, it is not the TIME of the event that is important, but the SEQUENCE of events that matters. So, if you want to get to work on time, the sequence of events should always be the same – wake up, get dressed, have breakfast, brush teeth, pick up school bag and get in the car; every day. Even non- work days should have a sequence of events because the child will then learn to differentiate the days and come to rely on this difference. Again, consistency is key. And again, remember that your child is watching you all the time. They will not follow the sequence of events if you are not.

Teaching boundaries can be very, very frustrating, but the trick is to ALWAYS be consistent.