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Setting Boundaries for Ourselves and Our Loved Ones

Denise speaks from her own experience. She has had many trials and difficulties in her own life and seeks to help others through theirs.

We adore our infants when they are born, we are fascinated with the newness of them being a part of us and everything they do brings joy.

We adore our infants when they are born, we are fascinated with the newness of them being a part of us and everything they do brings joy.

Boundaries Begin in Infancy

When our infants come home cradled in our arms, the first thing they experience is our unconditional love. It surrounds them with warmth and tenderness, giving them the ability to turn to us in their times of need. When they are hungry, we feed them. When they are wet, we change them.

When they are uncomfortable, we make adjustments in temperature, texture, and other things to help them feel better. As our infants grow, we are concerned for their safety and protection. We put boundaries around them in the form of cribs, playpens, swings, and car seats to keep them safe from the world. We make sure that they are buckled, fastened, and cuddled. As we do so, our infants learn that they can depend on us. They feel happy and secure, even though they may have discomfort during transition from one event to another, they trust that we will be there for them in the end.

This trust is like a house that is built around our children. It allows them to grow and progress in a safe environment where their needs are met. The boundaries we set for our own behavior form the walls of this house, giving structure and stability to the life of the child, as well as guiding our choices and behaviors.

When our children do things that require patience and understanding, the newness of their infancy wears off.

When our children do things that require patience and understanding, the newness of their infancy wears off.

Children Constantly Test the Boundaries We Set

Children do not have the reasoning skills of adults. They only understand what they experience. They sense when we are out of sorts and having a difficult time by the way we speak and interact with them. During times of stress and fatigue, the boundaries we set for ourselves and our loved ones are tested. The questions below help us to determine if we are having boundary issues that could affect our spouse and/or our children.

  • What do I do when awakened in the night by a crying child?
  • How do I respond when my spouse or child is ill?
  • When do I become angry with my spouse or child and how do I express that anger?
  • How do I let others know when I am frustrated or stressed?

If we are prone to act out physically when tired or stressed, we are at risk of doing things that hurt ourselves and our family members. Before we realize what is happening, our spouse or children are cowering in fear rather than coming to us for love and affection.

It is wise for us to have contingency plans for when things are not going well. Are we aware of our own triggering situations and feelings? Do we have friends or extended family we can talk to when we are having a tough time? Is there someone we can call to come and be with our children while we take some time to get ourselves together?

How do we adjust when changes happen? Are we able to rethink our priorities, make new schedules, and teach children new protocol while we are going through these adjustments? Deciding ahead of time what we will do when we are out of sorts puts a boundary on our own behavior and protects our spouse and children from unnecessary attacks on their physical well-being and sense of self-worth.

Our children are each different, not just in their looks, but in their personalities, temperaments, likes, and dislikes.

Our children are each different, not just in their looks, but in their personalities, temperaments, likes, and dislikes.

Boundaries Change as Children Grow

As children begin to move around and explore their world, cribs and playpens are replaced with teaching through words. Now is the time to teach possession, safety, sharing, choices, consequences, and how things work.

Children need discipline. First and foremost, they need to be taught what behavior is appropriate. When they do something that they should not, it is our job as parents to instruct them on what to do instead, and then practice with them until they are comfortable with the skill themselves. The chart below shows how this can be done before, during, and after misbehavior.

MisbehaviorBeforeDuringAfter

Hitting or slapping

Teach gentle touches

Say "Stop" and have the child touch gently

Point out when others use gentle touches

Taking things away from others

Teach possession using the words "yours," "mine," and "ours," and how to ask before using someone else's things

Have the child ask the other person if they can use their things. If the other child isn't ready, have them tell the child that they can have it when they are done

Praise when the child asks to use other's things. Praise the other child when they give a positive response or says that they can use it when done

Biting

Teach that teeth are used for eating food

Rub the top lip of the child with the knuckle of the hand, or wipe lips with a cold cloth

While brushing teeth, reinforce appropriate uses for them

Name-calling

Teach that everyone is special, and that their name is important to them

Have the child think up good names to give the other person, such as friend, sister, or brother

When the child uses an appropriate name, praise them for helping the other person feel good

Pushing and shoving

Teach kindness by using words when we want someone to move

Have the child practice asking the other person to "move, please"

If the child says, "move, please" rather than pushing or shoving, give praise

Interrupting adult conversations

Teach the child to wait when an adult is speaking. If they need something right away, say "Excuse me" and tell why they interrupted

When a child interrupts, look them in the eye, and ask them if it is very important. If not, tell them to wait until you are finished

Thank children when they do not interrupt adult conversations on the telephone or while visiting

Tearing books

Teach that books are for looking at gently. Read often with the child to model appropriate use of books

Put your hand on the book and say, "be gentle with the book"

Praise the child when they look at a book gently

Writing on walls

Teach that crayons and markers are to be used on paper and in coloring books at the table

Have the child put the crayon or marker on the table, then give them cleaning supplies to scrub off the writing on the wall

Note how nice the walls look when we choose to color in our books and on paper instead

 

 

 

 

Every time we interact with our children, we are modeling behaviors that they will learn.

Every time we interact with our children, we are modeling behaviors that they will learn.

We Teach Boundaries by Example

Our children follow our example, whether good or bad. We are their first teachers. They do what we do, and say what we say. If we have not set boundaries for ourselves when it comes to expressing our anger and displeasure, our children will not either. If we hit, they will hit. If we are kind, they will be kind.

The time that we spend teaching our children what they can and cannot do gives us the upper hand when we are with them away from our homes. We cannot expect them to behave any different from what they have been taught. When we spend time talking about what will happen and what we expect, our children behave more appropriately.

Our children only know what they live when we are with them. As they grow to adulthood, the attitudes and practices we have chosen will be the introduction that they have to the world. They see the world through our eyes. If we are trustworthy, and have treated them with respect, they will do the same for others.

Our children follow our example, in fact, they will use the same behaviors in public that we use in our homes, only intensified.

Our children follow our example, in fact, they will use the same behaviors in public that we use in our homes, only intensified.

If We Don't Like What Our Children are Doing, We Need to Look in a Mirror

Boundaries apply just as much to us as adults as they do to our children. If we are pointing the finger at their behavior, it is wise for us to evaluate our own, keeping in mind that what we do, they do. If we take the time when our children are young to model and teach appropriate behavior, we will not be embarrassed by our children in public, no matter what their age. They are mirrors of us, and only do what they have seen us do.

There will be times when we do not feel like doing what is best for our family. Our only recourse in these cases, is to look beyond ourselves to a higher power. Humility and courage are needed to admit that we cannot do it alone. Yet, once we tap into that power, we find strength that we did not know we had previously.

When our children become teens, they pick up on our adult behaviors. If we don't like the way they are acting, we need to look more closely at ourselves.

When our children become teens, they pick up on our adult behaviors. If we don't like the way they are acting, we need to look more closely at ourselves.

How Do We Know if We Need to Improve Our Behavior?

Negative teaching doesn't happen intentionally. It comes as a result of little indiscretions that are allowed to slip around our boundaries. We may not mean for these things to happen, they just do. Sometimes situations in our lives turn off our feelings to the point that we do not sense the feelings of others. To find out if our behavior is affecting our family members negatively, we can ask ourselves these questions:

  • Do my spouse and children come to me when they want to talk about something, positive or negative?
  • Do I take the time to seek out my spouse and children to share my experiences, positive or negative?
  • Do I actively listen when my spouse or children talk to me, and reflect back how I think that they are feeling, or summarize what they are saying?
  • Do I have someone outside of my family that helps me work through problems I am experiencing with my employment?

If we cannot answer these questions affirmatively, we may have said and done something inadvertently that lead to our spouse or children feeling that we do not care about them, or that their needs are not important. When we adopt an "I don't care" attitude toward our family members, they become objects rather than people, and the risk of family problems increases.

Children who have not been taught appropriate behavior are tossed to and fro by the winds of their peer group, the media, and those who would take advantage of their vulnerability. Sooner or later, they are an embarrassment to us and our families, and we wonder where we went wrong.

Spouses and children who are being treated with love and respect mirror that behavior toward others. They have a brightness in their eyes and they feel confident about themselves and their abilities. They know what is expected of them, speak appropriately to others, are able to handle conflicts, and use problem solving skills. We hear about their good behavior from others.

Our children learn what they live, or what we live when we are with them!

Our children learn what they live, or what we live when we are with them!

Setting Boundaries Lasts a Lifetime

The setting of boundaries begins in infancy and continues until our children are grown and raising families of their own. Even then, we need to set limitations on our behavior when we are with them, and allow them to set their own for themselves. Relationships are a big part of life, and setting boundaries for ourselves and our loved ones is necessary.

*Poem "Children" by Denise W. Anderson

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2013 Denise W Anderson

Comments

Denise W Anderson (author) from Bismarck, North Dakota on December 03, 2013:

Thanks for the positive feedback Nell. I can attribute much of my children's success to the influence of their grandparents. They were a great support and strength to us throughout the years.

Yes, we all make mistakes, and yet, it is the overall affect we have on our children that either makes or breaks them. Having gratitude for how they turned out helps us to forgive ourselves, and to acknowledge their positive choices. Blessings to you!

Nell Rose from England on December 02, 2013:

Love this denise! and your poems throughout were so true and apt! we all make our mistakes when bringing up children, but we seem to get there in the end, my son grew up really polite and friendly thank goodness! mind you that was my mums influence as well, nell

Denise W Anderson (author) from Bismarck, North Dakota on December 01, 2013:

Wow, MsDora, that is a challenge! With what I know of you, that child is fortunate, indeed, as they will know that they are loved. You have a great capacity for teaching and loving. My best to you and thanks for the positive feedback!

Denise W Anderson (author) from Bismarck, North Dakota on December 01, 2013:

Thanks, teaches. I'm glad that the table chart was helpful to you. With our children, the more often we taught them, the sooner they remembered. I know many parents who say that they teach their children, but their children don't learn. I think that is a tragedy. I believe that we teach before, during, and after misbehavior until our children behave the way that we want them to. It is never too late to start. I appreciate the positive feedback!

Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on December 01, 2013:

Very relevant for me, caring for my first grandchild. I especially appreciate the table on boundaries. So practical and pertinent. Will vote up and definitely forward. Thank you.

Dianna Mendez on November 29, 2013:

Great topic and well covered. Denise. I agree that setting an example really shows children how to develop good behavior and make good choices. Your table chart is excellent!

Denise W Anderson (author) from Bismarck, North Dakota on November 29, 2013:

Thanks, amiebutchko. We are the only ones who can hold ourselves accountable, and the best way to do it is look at our children and what they are doing.

Denise W Anderson (author) from Bismarck, North Dakota on November 29, 2013:

Thanks, swilliams. A lifetime is all we have. It is never too late to make our lives better.

Denise W Anderson (author) from Bismarck, North Dakota on November 29, 2013:

Thanks, SandCastles. Our children are like a magnifying glass. They let others know what we have been doing with our time and our life! Thanks for the positive feedback!

Denise W Anderson (author) from Bismarck, North Dakota on November 29, 2013:

You are right, torrilynn. When we set boundaries early, we avoid not only communication issues, but we make sure that our own needs are met. Thanks for reading and commenting!

Denise W Anderson (author) from Bismarck, North Dakota on November 29, 2013:

Thanks Sundeep Kateria! I appreciate the positive feedback!

Denise W Anderson (author) from Bismarck, North Dakota on November 29, 2013:

I don't know any parent who thinks that they are doing a good job, Med Carriere. We are all very critical of our own selves. Fortunately, we usually get positive feedback when our children are doing well, and we can give ourselves a pat on the back. Our children oftentimes let us know that they appreciate our teaching when they have children of their own.

Denise W Anderson (author) from Bismarck, North Dakota on November 29, 2013:

Thanks for the positive feedback, Rafiq23! I appreciate you reading and commenting!

Amie Butchko from Warwick, NY on November 29, 2013:

Ooooh. Thought provoking. Interesting to think that we should look in the mirror when our children perhaps have behavior that is less than perfect. I am going to have to put that in application.... Thanks for another great article, Denise.

swilliams on November 29, 2013:

This is great advice that will last for a lifetime. Thank You.

SandCastles on November 29, 2013:

What an excellent article! I like that, "If we don't like what our children are doing, we need to look in the mirror".

torrilynn on November 28, 2013:

I feel that boundaries need to be set early on in a friendship relationship or with family in order to avoid any confusion further down the line. Boundaries help with communication and helps to avoid arguments. It gives you a sense of personal space and well being. Overall, good article. Voted up.

Sundeep Kataria on November 28, 2013:

Great! You have summarized one life time ( or many) experience in one hub. It is an extraordinary work!

Mel Carriere from San Diego California on November 28, 2013:

I haven't been the perfect father, but it pleases me beyond words that my grown children are very polite and respectful of others. You are right that children learn by our example. The lessons don't blossom immediately sometimes, but they grow deep roots that grow later in life. Great hub!

Muhammad Rafiq from Pakistan on November 28, 2013:

Great Hub. Thumbs up!