The Paradox of Boundaries: Setting boundaries so your child can soar.

Our children experience their reality very differently than the way we experienced our youth – They are asked to “grow up” more quickly than we did and are exposed early on to so much information, most of which they’re not yet ready to process. Now, more than ever, children need grounded parents so that they can feel safe in what can feel like an unpredictable world.

Safety begins inside ourselves and for a young child to feel safe, they need to know, understand and experience consistently the rules of your home. By rules, I mean the boundaries that you set in your home with your children. Children do thrive on rules because they can understand what is expected. Our job as parents is to set rules from a place of consciousness. The rules we set are not with the intent to control behavior but rather, to provide our children with a framework from which they will thrive.

As child psychologist Dr. Shefali Tsabary explains, in order for a child to soar they need to balance both Authenticity and Containment. In other words, when a child is very young, they are completely authentic. If they are happy, they let you know with big reactions, if they are upset they do the same. They will throw themselves on the floor and throw a fit whether they are at home, in the supermarket, at a library, or walking down the aisle at a wedding. It does not make a difference to them. They are PURELY authentic.

As children get older, we want them to become more aware that we live in a society, amongst other humans and that throwing themselves on the floor when they are upset, does not serve them. In other words, we teach them CONTAINMENT.

Now, here’s the tricky part for parents: Teaching your child to be authentic, yet contained! We want our children to know that it is ALWAYS ok to have feelings about something. Our feelings are always valid (even when it doesn’t make sense to others) however the way we choose to EXPRESS those feelings has to evolve as we grow up in a more contained way. (We can’t have a 30 year old man throwing themselves on the floor at the supermarket because someone cut in front of them in line!)

How do you teach that?

1. Always validate your child’s feelings even when it doesn’t make sense to you. ex: I hear that this makes you very sad.

2. Set up clear rules in your home from a place of consciousness.

SET RULES → Rules around safety in your home. These are non- negotiable. ex: Hitting is a non-negotiable.

FLEXIBLE RULES → Your child can help create these rules with you and can choose the consequence with you. ex: what time to go to bed.

3. Have clear boundaries! You can be friendly with your child but you are not your child’s friend. For example, there are some conversations not to be had in front of children.

4. Be a living example to your child. When you get upset about something how do you react? Most likely your child will mirror the way you react to your own feelings. Therefore, track the way you show up.

No one said that parenting was easy. However, the beauty of parenting is that it allows us to revisit old paradigms that do not serve us nor our children anymore. We can “re-parent” ourselves so that what we teach our children comes from a place of higher consciousness and authenticity. Your child is calling you towards this greater expansion of yourself. Are you willing to step up?!

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Hi, I 'm Nancy

I’m an Occupational Therapist (OT) with more than 18 years of experience and whose greatest passion is working with children of all abilities. 

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