Setting Boundaries with Kids

Words by
Inger Erickson

JAN 24, 2020

Setting Boundaries with Kids

Parents don’t know this, but setting boundaries with kids is actually something that kids want. As a teen, I never would have admitted this. I remember being frustrated and angry at my parents because I had friends who could do anything they wanted, yet at the same time I felt a sense of security knowing my parents cared about what I did. It seemed like these friends who could do anything had the life, but I remember them saying how cool my parents were. Now, I can clearly see what was behind this comment—they actually wanted boundaries because without them they felt like their parents didn’t care. 

Why Setting Boundaries with Kids is Important

Setting boundaries with kids sets the tone for their emotional development, and when it’s done right, they thrive. Here are three reasons why you want to have boundaries in place with your kids: 

Boundaries help them face hard things.

Struggling has always been an important tool to help us progress. Think of how many times your child fell before they learned to walk. Preventing them from falling would have actually hindered their development. It was the falling down and getting back up—or the “struggle”—that made their legs strong enough to walk. 

We can apply this analogy to raising our kids. It’s so tempting to want to protect them from hard things and give in so they can avoid feelings of disappointment. But as parents, we need to let our kids struggle so they can learn at a young age how to handle challenges. Letting them learn this over and over will create resiliency. Studies show that being resilient is a trait in teenagers who have confidence in themselves, handle friend problems, avoid feelings of hopelessness, and are able to rise above the pressures of social media.

Boundaries help them feel safe.

As parents, we have good intentions and want our kids’ voices to be heard, but sometimes it can go too far and the child’s voice or opinion takes over and controls the outcome of the situation. A well-known example of this is when kids present their parents with all the reasons why they should have an iPhone and then mom or dad give in, even though they know it’s not a good idea. In a situation like this, it’s important to remember that saying no doesn’t mean you’re mean. It’s not our job to keep your kids happy. A parent’s job is to set boundaries that protect their kids. Boundaries, daily routines, and rules help kids feel safe and create predictability. Predictability reduces uncertainty, and uncertainty reduces anxiety.

Boundaries help them stay connected.

Being narcissistic is developmentally natural in small children, but until it’s disrupted, kids will continue to feel like the world revolves around them. Setting boundaries with kids teaches them that they can’t always have their way and this actually helps them mature. Experiencing disappointments because of boundaries can also help them develop empathy and learn patience. Both of these create a connection with others and the real world.

Being “in charge” is a tough job! The next time you feel like giving in or giving up on the boundaries you’ve set, be strong! Just remember they’re helping you raise kids who are resilient, emotionally safe, and capable of creating meaningful connections.

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