Tag Archive for: setting boundaries

By Hannah Smith-Quirey, MSW, LCSW – April 10, 2024 –

Boundaries. They are a necessary part of any relationship. Boundaries enhance our well-being in so many ways. So why do we have so many feelings around setting healthy and effective boundaries? And how do you go about setting the boundaries you need or want in your life?

There are so many benefits to putting boundaries in place. It clearly communicates to others what we need and want. Setting boundaries decreases our stress level and prevents us from experiencing burnout. Boundaries enhance our relationships, both personally and professionally. They are important for self-care and improve our emotional health.

There are many reasons people don’t set boundaries. Society sends a message that politeness is important and that somehow creating boundaries is rude. People don’t want to disappoint others or not have their acceptance. Many are scared to set boundaries and may feel like they don’t have the right or don’t deserve to protect themselves.

The idea of creating and identifying what boundaries you want to set may feel overwhelming at times. First, you must determine what your values are and what matters to you. You need to be able to identify what your limitations are. You must begin to understand that the word “no” is a complete sentence. Boundaries should be stated assertively and directly. You also think about and practice how you would respond to boundary violations.

What is the difference between setting healthy boundaries versus being controlling? Setting healthy boundaries involves our own behavior, choices, and actions, while being controlling seeks to change the behavior, choices, or actions of others.

It is important to realize that your voice, needs, and wants matter. Boundaries are unique and specific to each person. It is also important to remember that boundaries are flexible. We can adjust and change them as we go.

A big part of setting healthy boundaries involves making sure you are consistent when you respond to violations of your boundaries. Remember, other people do not have to like or agree with your boundaries. Eventually, you will start to feel less guilty or not feel guilty at all when setting a boundary. You will stop letting others take advantage of you and find that you are not feeling responsible for other people. Setting healthy boundaries also includes not feeling offended by the boundaries that others choose to set.

Boundaries are necessary for your well-being. You will have to know who you are and what you value in order to set effective boundaries. Even though you may have difficulty or struggle to set them, you should still work to make sure you put them in place. We all have different needs and wants, and that is okay. 

Make sure you are indeed setting boundaries and not trying to control others around you. Boundaries aren’t easy but will, in the end, benefit you and those around you.

By Amy Steele, MSW, LCSW, LAC, RPT

Telling children “no” can be a difficult task for parents and caregivers. Many parents shy away from saying no, and some will do anything to keep a child from becoming upset. When adults fail to set consistent limits, children miss out on developing the important mental health and life skills they need to succeed.

Children who don’t have rules tend to feel out of control and experience anxiety.  Kids are comforted knowing adults are taking care of things and helping them stay in control. Boundaries and limits help children feel more secure, and following rules makes their lives more predictable, especially when they know what the outcome will be when they follow the rules.

Experiencing consequences when rules are broken lets kids know that the adults in their lives are not going to allow certain behaviors. This can build trust and shows children that you are reliable, you mean what you say, and you will follow through on your word. Using consistency when limit setting indicates you will also be consistent in other areas where they depend on you, lessening their anxieties.

Avoiding limits to prevent a tantrum or an argument sets our kids up for failure in the long run. If children don’t learn how to feel and cope with feelings at a young age, they will spend their life trying to avoid these feelings. If they learn at an early age that feelings are okay, even ones we don’t like, then they learn coping skills that help them make choices that result in more positive outcomes.

Children need parents to set limits on what is appropriate to keep them safe, healthy, and rested. This allows them to be prepared to achieve their goals in life and become happy, healthy, contributing members of their community. Parents must decide to teach and model positive and healthy ways to handle negative feelings, otherwise life (society, social media, video games, peers) will teach them instead.

What a gift it is to teach a child that life is full of choices. If they make a choice that isn’t the right one there are consequences, but with love and guidance, life goes on and they can do better next time.

By Sophia Blaha, LSW – April 2, 2019

For most parents, talking about boundaries begins with simple statements such as “No hitting,” “Don’t push,” and “Ask before taking things from someone else.”  

As a parent I know I say these statements often, but I also try to instill a deeper understanding of boundaries in my own children as well as the kids at the school where I work. I try to provide an understanding of why we have these boundaries and discuss how someone might feel if their boundaries have not been respected. This is an important step towards building empathetic individuals.  

For younger kids, a concept that may be difficult to grasp is physical boundaries or space. For example, my daughter recently met a new friend. After playing together my daughter ran up and gave her a tight, lovable hug (at least that is what she thought she was doing).  

I watched the girl’s expression and noticed she seemed a bit uncomfortable with that type of physical contact. On the way home I took the opportunity to have a casual conversation about that moment with my daughter. I mentioned that I noticed that she may have surprised her new friend when she gave her a hug. I made a reference to a time when another friend of hers hugged her when she did not want to.

We talked about what we could do next time, and together we were able come up with a solution to respect her new friend’s personal space and boundaries.

We also discussed paying attending to body language. This is a harder concept for smaller children to grasp but one that I feel it’s never too early to start to talk about. 

A simple way to do this: While watching a show or reading a book, point out a character and ask your child how the character is feeling. I like to then have my daughter match the feeling with her face by saying, “Can you show me what sad looks like on your face?”      

A common lesson that parents teach young children is, “Don’t talk to strangers,” but we often forget to continue the lesson as children grow older. What I’ve witnessed for school-aged children (and some adults) is a blurred line of relationship building from a stranger to a close peer. 

I’ve talked with several students who talk about a peer who turned out to be unhealthy and has used shared personal details against them. Unfortunately, when we have an unhealthy emotional boundary with other individuals, we may inadvertently share more than we should when getting to know someone. 

Simply put, it is unhealthy to share our life story and our secrets with someone we are just getting to know. As parents, it is important to discuss with our kids healthy conversation topics when getting to know someone. Explain that although we hope our new friends have the best intentions, it’s important to take time to get to know someone.

Teachable moments happen every day all around us.  I encourage you to take these opportunities to build boundaries and foster empathy. It is essential that adults and parents model healthy boundaries. Remember that children do as they see.