A huge part of helping our children maneuver this world is helping them set reasonable boundaries. At a basic level, this means learning when to say “yes” and when to say “no.” Guiding your child to make positive decisions for their well being.
Learning boundaries, even at a young age, will help set up a roadway of respecting others. The more a child sees and feels how their personal boundaries are respected, the more likely they are to respect others. Empowering your child to make decisions for themselves, no matter how small, sets them up to advocate for themselves. Here are a few helpful hints to guide your child along this journey!
Carol Horton, a Texas family and adolescent psychologist, suggests one of the best ways to advocate personal boundaries is to model them for your children. Respecting your child’s personhood and offering choice are great examples to put into practice. For example, with my own son I never force him to hug a family member – including me.
As he is growing up and learning to express himself, I feel it is important for him to know that I respect his personal boundaries. I ask him, “can I have a hug/kiss?” and I respect his answer, no matter how bad I want a hug before he spends a weekend with grandpa!
Now, I know my son to be a cuddler, so rarely is his answer “no” but I do want him to know that he has the option to say so. A great option here, and for anything, is offering choice. Decision making develops a resourceful skill your child will need the rest of his life. If a hug or a kiss is denied, maybe offer a high five or blowing a kiss instead. This is a simple alternative where affirmation is still available but it also gives the child a say in how it is done.
The ability to choose creates a sense of control. When your child feels they have control in their lives, the more likely they are to respect the choice of others. Practice giving your child choice in even the simplest of activities, like choosing pajamas for the night or which cup to use at dinner. The more decision making is practiced, the more they get used to it and the more he recognizes the choice in others.
The main picture here is that your child’s body and feelings belong to them. Your child is their own person rather than a part of you. Have discussions as the opportunities arise about boundaries! Take those moments and help put them into play by modeling what is right and wrong!
~Ms. Caitlin H.