First of all, why do children need boundaries (everyone, not just children but we will start with the early years). Because if you do not act as your child’s first teacher about what is acceptable and not acceptable, they will get out there in the big world and become utterly lost.  Having boundaries  are “likeable.” What I mean by that is that people will like to be around your children if they have boundaries which include manners.  Additionally, when children have boundaries they feel:


I will talk about boundaries a little bit at a time over the next couple of weeks so I don’t overwhelm you.  Let’s begin with the WHY boundaries are important and what they look like a little at a time.

Kids Want to Know Where the Start Line is and

Where the Finish Line Is

Children want to know where “the start line is and the finish line is.”  Could you imagine as an adult, you are starting your new job.  You walk into your new job on the first day and the person who is suppose to be training you simply says, “Be Good.”

Children feel the same way when you bring them out to a social atmosphere of any sort.  They can’t just be told to be good!  You have to teach them what playing in a playground with other kids looks like.  Shadow them by teaching them to wait their turn, or to say thank you or to be helpful.  When our kids don’t know what to do when they enter a new environment, it is no different than you entering that new job and not being trained so you know what to do.  Be Good, doesn’t cut it.

When we give our children boundaries,

it’s important to be positive.

The word NO is overused and yes, negative.  Focus on what they can do, not what they can’t do.

Instead of, No, you are going to bed at 8:00 and that is final – focus on what they get to do.  OK honey, let’s have our bath and then guess what, we’ll have a nice story and I can tuck you all cozy into bed.  What story would you like tonight?

Give Them Choices Within Boundaries

Avoiding Toy Wars When Company Comes Over

When my kids were little and we were having company with people who had children coming over, to avoid the TOY WARS of  our company’s children playing with our kids’ very special toys, I would say to my boys, “ok honeys, what toys can kids play with and what toys can’t they play with today?”  This makes them feel like they have a little power, but it is also showing your children respect for things that matter to them.  This before company ritual means that your kids have the opportunity to put away all of their favorite toys and leave some toys out for the other kids to play with.  Think about it.  As an adult you have special things you wouldn’t want company to play with either.  Things that are important to you.  It also avoids some kids who might be a little rough with other people’s things, breaking something that is important to your child.  IT also creates “teamwork” with you and your kids while still being hospitable to your company.

Now Will You Put Your Jacket On…

Another example of giving them choices within boundaries would be, “do you want to wear this jacket, or that jacket?”  They usually pick one.  However if they don’t pick a jacket to wear, do me a favor and just bring a jacket along.  They will learn very quickly that they needed a jacket and you can without getting mad at them, use this moment as a teachable one.  When my one son refused to wear the jacket I asked him to put on BEFORE we went out, when he did need it because he was freezing, I used that moment as a TEACHABLE ONE.  I would say, “remember when mommy asked you to pick a jacket out because it is cold out?  Ok, next time when you get to pick a jacket, remember how cold you are right now, and pick one out.”  Lesson learned!  No fighting, no stress.

This routine may take a few tries, depending on how determined and tenacious they are.  However, find humor in it.  They will put the coat on eventually, trust me.  Just remind them of how cold they were last time when they didn’t put the coat on.

Let’s Get To Bed

Children need rituals and routines.  Let’s take a look at bedtime for instance.  The routine would be that after dinner, they get to play for a while, then they have a bath, then they have a bed time snack, then they get story time and talk time and then it is lights out and a sweet dreams salute.  Oh I just about forgot, a tucking in to bed ritual.  Make it fun.

In essence, by understanding the importance of the bed time ritual and routine, you will get time to yourself once you get the kids to sleep.  Routines and Rituals are the magical part of setting boundaries.

Rituals are the bed time story, the talk time and tucking them into bed.  The things that connect us to our children and connect them to us.  By the way, my youngest for the record was a bit of a night owl, so he’d play around in bed for quite some time and on occasion, open the door to see if he could come sit with us.  That however was mine and my husband’s time to relax.  So what was the solution?  My husband installed bed lamps into our kids’ rooms and when my youngest couldn’t sleep, he could read his book and then turn the lights out, which usually happened within about 20 minutes (reading makes most of us sleepy).  So make allowances if they need to quieten themselves down and backtrack the routine by getting them into bed a little earlier (20 minutes in this case).  TV is  overstimulating and so is being over tired.  Today my son is a voracious reader and likes the routine even as an adult to have a quiet room to read.


Talk soon! XOXO

Written by : Tara McIntosh

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