The Importance of Setting Boundaries for Kids

sad boy holding teddy bear
Photo by Ann in the uk/Shutterstock

Setting boundaries for kids helps children flourish. Many parents know it’s important to set loving boundaries for kids yet find it challenging to establish boundaries and struggle to maintain them in the home. While setting boundaries is difficult, boundaries are necessary. In fact, boundaries are part of all aspects of life.

Below, explore the benefits of setting boundaries for kids and tips for success.

Setting Boundaries for Kids Builds Character

When children experience clear, firm, developmentally appropriate boundaries that are delivered with unconditional love, they are better equipped to meet the demands of reality. By setting boundaries for kids early on, children learn what is expected of them at home, school, and with friends. Setting boundaries for kids builds character and helps children gain self control, which allows them to regulate their behavior so it is socially acceptable.

Those children who do not grow up with firm, consistent, and loving boundaries have difficulty as they grow—difficulty with things like standing up for themselves, tending to agree to do things that they really do not want to do, and tolerating pushy people. Setting boundaries and expectations for children assists in building vital life skills that include patience, problem solving, resourcefulness, responsibility, and self discipline.

An Expert’s View On Setting Boundaries for Kids 

According to Dr. Michelle Borba, author of Thrivers: The Surprising Reasons Why Some Kids Struggle and Others Shine, says setting boundaries for kids helps kids feel safe and secure. Knowing what happens next is important to a child’s sense of well being. Without being too rigid, it is possible to set a schedule and live but it.

Borba adds that setting boundaries for kids is a way to show love for them. The boundaries should be clear, defined limits, and parents should parent–by enforcing the boundaries, and not be a friend. If we establish and reinforce developmentally appropriate rules or boundaries, children learn to set their own limits as they mature. Setting boundaries for kids also teaches children how to protect themselves, physically and emotionally.

Parental limits, says Dr. Borba, disrupt the normal and developmentally appropriate narcissism and entitlement of early childhood. Without boundaries, children will continue to feel that the world revolves around them and may grow to become narcissistic adults. Boundaries allow kids to grow up, understand why they cannot always get their way, and teach them to be more patient and mature.

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Setting Boundaries for Kids Helps Children Feel Safe

Boundaries allow children to feel safe and secure. The limits and rules create predictability in a child’s life, which reduces anxiety. Having too much power is scary and anxiety-provoking for kids. Predictability is key to increasing cooperation when children know what is expected of them.

The Dos and Don’ts of Setting Boundaries for Kids 

But before parents can set boundaries for kids, parents must be clear on their values, rules, and how they will enforce them. Here are some tips for successfully setting boundaries for kids:

  • DO: If children are old enough, consider involving them in making the family rules.
  • DON’T: It is important not to allow children to negotiate or set rules for things including bedtime and screen time.
  • DO: Give children unconditional love to help them learn from mistakes. Coach them to make healthy and safe choices in the future.
  • DON’T: Do not give empty threats. Failing to back up rules with consistent consequences makes children feel in charge and as a result, causes them to feel anxious. If the balance of power shifts towards the child, it is harmful for kids and parents alike.

When Setting Boundaries for Kids, Follow These Tips

  • Keep boundaries for kids simple. Be clear, direct, and firm.
  • Keep boundaries simple. Name your limits and communicate them clearly.
  • Be consistent. Clearly communicate the consequences of crossing limits. Even if a child is upset, remain firm. For example, if a child is upset about having to go to bed, say, “I see you are upset because you do not want to go to bed, but that is the rule. Go to bed and I will tuck you in.”
  • Recognize appropriate behavior. The power of positive reinforcement is better than focusing on the negative. For example, praise clean up by saying, “I see you put away your toys—excellent job!”
  • Focus on the behavior. Avoid labeling children as good or bad, discuss the behavior itself.
  • Follow through with consequences.
  • Be patient. Do not expect children to understand and follow your rules and boundaries right away.

Setting boundaries for kids takes time and effort but is well worth it!

Dawn Marie Barhyte is a widely published author with over a hundred articles to her credit. A former early childhood educator and co-director, Dawn continues to touch the lives of families through her writing. She lives and works in the beautiful Hudson Valley, NY with her beloved husband and rescue chihuahua dachshund.

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