Boundaries: Building Block #9 For Positive Parenting

Boundaries: Building Block #9 For Positive Parenting

Welcome to the Beyond Discipline: 10 Building Blocks for Positive Parenting Series.
This is the 8th post in a series of 10 on the Building Blocks for positive parenting.

If you missed them here are building blocks #1 #2 #3 #4 #5 #6 #7 #8

Building Block #9

 setting healthy boundaries


Boundaries safeguard emotional and physical well-being.

As parents, setting, balancing, explaining and honoring boundaries is sometimes difficult but vitally important to a healthy parent-child relationship. While children need freedom to make discoveries, having a healthy set of boundaries for parents and children is vital for development as well as for maintaining family harmony.

Some parents are unable or unwilling to set boundaries out of fear that having to enforce those boundaries could result in inappropriate or “negative” discipline.  Other parents are afraid that when they set a limit or hold a boundary their child will become upset or no longer love them. Parenting without boundaries however is not safe or positive.

Parenting without boundaries is confusing and difficult, not just for parents but for children as well.  Children need to know why and when their behavior is unacceptable, preferably well before we parents run out of patience and energy to address the situation in a positive manner.  It is far more positive and constructive to use encouragement and give children responsibility as a way to help them understand boundaries and acceptable behavior than to control, threaten or re-actively respond with punishment.

Boundaries or limits will often vary from family to family but when we set boundaries, it’s important to think about how those boundaries will protect or affect feelings, behaviors, thoughts and physical safety. Boundaries are supposed to provide security and guidance, not to make a child feel locked in and controlled.

How can we set and honor boundaries in a positive way?

*Take the time to talk about boundaries and expectation with children often.

*Reflect as a family about day to day activities and what boundaries are needed help everyone live in harmony.

*Talk about physical safety and why safety measures exist and how hurting others is not acceptable.

*Talk about emotional safety and why respect and kindness matters.

*Explain that sometimes boundaries  at home and boundaries in other families/outside of home may be different.

*Think about what boundaries or limits are non-negotiable (for many families these are harming others and purposely damaging property)

*Do not be afraid to say no when it’s necessary. Saying yes is important, but  as parents we cannot give, give, give and bend the earth. Children CAN deal with disappointment and with limits if they are presented with kindness, empathy and compassion.

*Set and honor your own healthy boundaries for rest, sleep, time to relax and re-center. If you continually feel overwhelmed, than chances are you will find it difficult to parent in a positive way.

*Respect your child’s innate boundaries by not forcing your child to do things when they are not yet ready or comfortable. For example, don’t force them to kiss relatives, don’t tickle or physically handle them when they express discomfort, ask permission or at least narrate when you must touch, handle or otherwise invade their personal space.

*Strive to provide guidance that is positive and respectful (no physical or emotional harm)  as a way to model respect towards the personal boundaries of your child and others.

*Keep the promises you make.

*Remember to stay flexible. Boundaries over the years and sometimes even just weeks will need to be expanded as the child grows and is ready to experience more responsibility.

positive parenting and setting limits

Parenting Tools & Setting Boundaries

Asking questions: Instead of demanding compliance, ask questions and encourage children to make decisions so they may experience how these decisions affect them and others.

Family meetings: Not only are family meetings great for discussing boundaries, the meetings themselves offer an opportunity for learning to take turns, listen to each other  and how to present information respectfully.

Routine Charts: Charts can help children visualize responsibilities and understand expectations while still having freedom to make decisions about themselves.

Time In: Sometimes children need a reminder that they have overstepped a limit, taking a time in is a gentle and positive way to help a child reflect about their choices and make a plan to move forward.

Wheel of Choice: A wheel of choice is a wonderful way for children to see that there are often many ways to approach any one situation while still respecting other peoples needs, feelings or belongings.  Read all about Wheel of Choice here.

Setting healthy boundaries with kindness, using encouragement, cooperation, giving freedom and expecting responsibility sets a child up for life-long learning and understanding on how to be respectful while being a capable and authentic individual.

Questions for Reflection

Do you ever find yourself allowing your personal boundaries to be stepped on? What message does that send to your children and what can you do to better safeguard your own boundaries?

What part of setting boundaries is most challenging and what steps can you take towards making a change?

Peace & Be Well,


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Ariadne is a happy and busy mama to three children. She practices peaceful, playful, responsive parenting and is passionate about all things parenting and chocolate. Ariadne has a Masters in Psychology and is a certified Positive Discipline Parenting Educator. She lives on top of a beautiful mountain with her family, and one cuddly dog.

9 Responses to Boundaries: Building Block #9 For Positive Parenting

  1. It took me a while to realise that boundaries were important to living harmoniously. But now we gave some clear boundaries my son has a better understanding of what is likely to make us upset, do it doesn’t come as a surprise. And we are respectful, when a can be, of his boundaries, when he doesn’t want to join in play or do an activity we are proposing.
    Great post, thanks for sharing

  2. Thank you for sharing your experience – it can be a tricky balance sometimes to set boundaries and hold them so that everyone’s needs are met!!

  3. Hi Ariadne,

    My name is Denise. I was reading each building block and am really enjoying the articles. However, I cannot seem to find building block #10. Can you point me to the right direction.
    Thank you:)

  4. Hello Adriane,
    I have a 20 months old daughter. Lately, her favorite reply to everything is “no”. She puts up a huge fight to get her to sit in the car seat, refuses to sit on her high chair, wants to go “bye” all the time, demands to watch to TV a lot and wants to sit and stand over tables, counters.. etc which of course isn’t safe. She cries to get her way all the time and usually I just try to distract her and sometimes I just give in. What is your advice to dealing with this behaviour? What is a good age to start setting boundaries?

  5. Hi Nourhan,
    While setting boundaries may seem difficult, they are very important. At 20 months children are typically looking for guidance and boundaries because it brings them safety. The more a child has to be responsible for her own environment the more likely she is to feel anxious, whiny and lost. Boundaries can be set with kindness and still be very clear. In positive discipline this is called “kind and FIRM” and I like to think of it for toddlers more so as kind and CLEAR. With the kindness piece comes validation and noticing “I see you want to sit on that table.” and then a clear boundary “I will not let you sit on the table. You may sit on the chair.” and then Kindness returns when a child cries “you didn’t like my answer. I can see that. AND I will wait with you while you are upset.” It’s impossible to keep children smiling and happy 100% of the time because as human beings we are naturally wired to experience all sorts of emotions – a range if you will. Setting boundaries will at times lead to tears and testing (this is a normal response from the child) If the parents intent is to guide and teach and to create boundaries for safety, the child will likely beyond the frustration also come to feel more at ease, more likely to cooperate and grow well. Giving in doesn’t help children understand the house values, rules and boundaries…. Validating and holding a limit teaches empathy and boundaries. Difficult at times? yes, but so very worthwhile in the long run – especially because which dynamic do you want to sustain in the long term? Thank you for your question!

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