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Why Children Need Boundaries

While most of us want to connect in a fun and loving way with our children, the reality is that children need us to lead them as parents. It is our role to set expectations and boundaries for our children from a young age, so they grow to understand how life works.

Good boundaries help children and teens develop a strong sense of self-awareness, self-identity, and self-esteem. They’re also essential for the development of social skills, such as communication and problem-solving. Clear expectations let kids know what is expected of them, which can help prevent conflicts or misbehaviour.

It has also been said that clear boundaries help children to feel safe, as well as be safe. From the youngest of age toddlers and children as to be yes-parents, agreeing to their every demand. In my household, my 3-year-old would choose chocolate for breakfast, ride his bike alone on the road, and not have a bedtime – so my role here is to set some boundaries that align with his developmental and health needs. My teens don’t always see vegetables as preferable or homework as necessary, and not many would opt to clean their room without a little push.

By setting boundaries, parents can ensure that children know what is appropriate in different situations and when to seek help if they feel unsafe or uncomfortable. Knowing their limits also helps teens recognize when a situation might be dangerous and encourages them to make better decisions about whom and what situations to trust.

Far too many parents come into our practice asking for help with their boundaryless children. When I ask, how they were parented they often share sad stories of abuse or harsh discipline, which they have vowed not to repeat. I commend them on this, not an easy task when this was one’s early parenting lesson. But then when I ask, so what do you do instead? What do you use as a parenting strategy? They often give me a blank face and an “umm” sort of reply. They avoid upsetting their children, and as a result, have children who are without boundaries at home, and pushing boundaries at school.

Boundaries and expectations are learning tools, that give children the skills they need to succeed as adults. By encouraging children to think critically, make wise decisions, strive for excellence, and respect themselves and others, parents can provide their kids with the tools they’ll need to be successful adults. Setting boundaries also teaches children how to manage their time effectively and prioritize tasks, skills that will serve them well in their future careers.

Finally, boundaries and expectations can help children build healthy relationships with others. Clear boundaries let kids know what’s expected of them in interpersonal interactions such as conversations, social gatherings and even dating. Learning how to respect other people’s boundaries and expectations can also help children create relationships that are based on mutual respect and trust.