5 Reasons Your Child Craves Boundaries

5 Reasons Your Child Craves Boundaries

Boundaries are our way of protecting and looking after ourselves. They are the secret gatekeepers to our souls, keeping the good in and the not-so-good out. But why does your child crave them? Boundaries help your child thrive by teaching them responsibility, security, consequences, respect, and emotional regulation.

What Children Can Learn From Boundaries.

  1. Responsibility

    Boundaries teach children that they are the only ones in control of their own behavior. To do this, allow the consequences of their choices to follow them. Give your child the advantage in life by giving them the space to ask for something they want. Even though they may not get it. Whenever you can, allow them to talk about their frustration and sadness without jumping to fix it for them. Feeling frustrated and sad are not “bad” feelings. But making them feel like they are bad, will stop your child from expressing themselves.

    If your child can take responsibility for her own feelings and needs, she will learn how to meet those needs too. She will learn that her failure and her success (because one leads to the other!) is because of her own initiative. Your instinct will be to immediately scoop her up and save her, but ‘saving’ her will only mean over-dependence on you and a lack of responsibility for herself. Support her, and be there with her, but give her the opportunity to discover her own resilience and resourcefulness.

  2. Security

    Right from when children are little, they will give you signs when they are anxious or distressed. Being able to say no from a young age gives them the power over their own voices. The best thing you can do for them is to respect their choices. To nurture this, respond in a way that shows you support your child, even though you might not agree with them. Allow your child the space to say no while still giving her your love and acceptance. This will allow them to learn that it is okay to be themselves and have their own opinions. Being able to say no within their own families, will help them do the same with peers or at work when they are older. 

  3. Consequences

    Children need to have a sense of direction in their lives. When you give your child a choice, you give them the power of that choice too. You give them a sense of authority and control, even if it is a simple choice of what color bowl they want for breakfast. 

    Help them feel confident in the decisions they make now.  They will draw on this same confidence again when deciding bigger issues as they grow older. Be patient. Give your child the opportunity to make mistakes and learn from them too.

  4. Respect

    Have you ever been around a child (or anyone for that matter) who can’t accept the word “no”? The child knows that if she pushes the right buttons, one parent will be likely to say yes. Learning that no means no, is a great lesson in having empathy for others. Being able to see things from someone else’s perspective is a gift. Children need to know that their behavior always has a consequence and that their actions can be hurtful. Understanding that “no” means “no” when it comes to that candy car, will help your child respect the “no” that comes from running a budget, obeying the law, doing the ‘right’ thing.

  5. Regulating Emotions

    It isn’t easy for children to make their big feelings, feel not so big. Temper tantrums are the direct result of letting big feelings take over completely. As children get older, they learn how to talk about their needs through conversations with you. Learning how to regulate their emotions, can also lead them to be patient in getting what they want. They learn how to cool off on their own and how this in itself, has a reward down the line for them. This teaches them how to have a goal in life, and to enjoy the reward of that goal when they reach it.

    To encourage this, accept your child’s feelings, even when it’s inconvenient for you. Encourage your child to feel as mad as she wants, but make sure she knows that she cannot hit someone else when she feels that way. Praise her for a job well done and help her choose her own reward as a result of managing her big feelings on her own.

Teaching your child how to set boundaries and respect the boundaries of others can be a challenge. Give your child the advantage in life by teaching them how to identify their needs, and how best to meet them. You are your child’s best role model. Your clear and consistent boundaries will teach your child exactly how they can do the same for themselves.


About the Author: Carla Buck

Carla Buck, M.A., is a writer, mental health therapist and global traveler having traveled to more than 75 countries worldwide. She has experience working with children and their parents all over the world, having lived, worked and volunteered in Africa, North America, Europe and the Middle East. Carla is the creator of Warrior Brain Parenting, helping moms and dads confidently raise their secure and calm children. 

You can visit her website and learn more at https://www.warriorbrain.com or join the Warrior Brain Parenting community on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/groups/warriorbrain/

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Anxiety is a sign that the brain has registered threat and is mobilising the body to get to safety. One of the ways it does this is by organising the body for movement - to fight the danger or flee the danger. 

If there is no need or no opportunity for movement, that fight or flight fuel will still be looking for expression. This can come out as wriggly, fidgety, hyperactive behaviour. This is why any of us might pace or struggle to sit still when we’re anxious. 

If kids or teens are bouncing around, wriggling in their chairs, or having trouble sitting still, it could be anxiety. Remember with anxiety, it’s not about what is actually safe but about what the brain perceives. New or challenging work, doing something unfamiliar, too much going on, a tired or hungry body, anything that comes with any chance of judgement, failure, humiliation can all throw the brain into fight or flight.

When this happens, the body might feel busy, activated, restless. This in itself can drive even more anxiety in kids or teens. Any of us can struggle when we don’t feel comfortable in our own bodies. 

Anxiety is energy with nowhere to go. To move through anxiety, give the energy somewhere to go - a fast walk, a run, a whole-body shake, hula hooping, kicking a ball - any movement that spends the energy will help bring the brain and body back to calm.♥️
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#parenting #anxietyinkids #childanxiety #parenting #parent
This is not bad behaviour. It’s big behaviour a from a brain that has registered threat and is working hard to feel safe again. 

‘Threat’ isn’t about what is actually safe or not, but about what the brain perceives. The brain can perceive threat when there is any chance missing out on or messing up something important, anything that feels unfamiliar, hard, or challenging, feeling misunderstood, thinking you might be angry or disappointed with them, being separated from you, being hungry or tired, anything that pushes against their sensory needs - so many things. 

During anxiety, the amygdala in the brain is switched to high volume, so other big feelings will be too. This might look like tears, sadness, or anger. 

Big feelings have a good reason for being there. The amygdala has the very important job of keeping us safe, and it does this beautifully, but not always with grace. One of the ways the amygdala keeps us safe is by calling on big feelings to recruit social support. When big feelings happen, people notice. They might not always notice the way we want to be noticed, but we are noticed. This increases our chances of safety. 

Of course, kids and teens still need our guidance and leadership and the conversations that grow them, but not during the emotional storm. They just won’t hear you anyway because their brain is too busy trying to get back to safety. In that moment, they don’t want to be fixed or ‘grown’. They want to feel seen, safe and heard. 

During the storm, preserve your connection with them as much as you can. You might not always be able to do this, and that’s okay. None of this is about perfection. If you have a rupture, repair it as soon as you can. Then, when their brains and bodies come back to calm, this is the time for the conversations that will grow them. 

Rather than, ‘What consequences do they need to do better?’, shift to, ‘What support do they need to do better?’ The greatest support will come from you in a way they can receive: ‘What happened?’ ‘What can you do differently next time?’ ‘You’re the most wonderful kid and I know you didn’t want this to happen. How can you put things right? Do you need my help with that?’♥️
Big behaviour is a sign of a nervous system in distress. Before anything, that vulnerable nervous system needs to be brought back home to felt safety. 

This will happen most powerfully with relationship and connection. Breathe and be with. Let them know you get it. This can happen with words or nonverbals. It’s about feeling what they feel, but staying regulated.

If they want space, give them space but stay in emotional proximity, ‘Ok I’m just going to stay over here. I’m right here if you need.’

If they’re using spicy words to make sure there is no confusion about how they feel about you right now, flag the behaviour, then make your intent clear, ‘I know how upset you are and I want to understand more about what’s happening for you. I’m not going to do this while you’re speaking to me like this. You can still be mad, but you need to be respectful. I’m here for you.’

Think of how you would respond if a friend was telling you about something that upset her. You wouldn’t tell her to calm down, or try to fix her (she’s not broken), or talk to her about her behaviour. You would just be there. You would ‘drop an anchor’ and steady those rough seas around her until she feels okay enough again. Along the way you would be doing things that let her know your intent to support her. You’d do this with you facial expressions, your voice, your body, your posture. You’d feel her feels, and she’d feel you ‘getting her’. It’s about letting her know that you understand what she’s feeling, even if you don’t understand why (or agree with why). 

It’s the same for our children. As their important big people, they also need leadership. The time for this is after the storm has passed, when their brains and bodies feel safe and calm. Because of your relationship, connection and their felt sense of safety, you will have access to their ‘thinking brain’. This is the time for those meaningful conversations: 
- ‘What happened?’
- ‘What did I do that helped/ didn’t help?’
- ‘What can you do differently next time?’
- ‘You’re a great kid and I know you didn’t want this to happen, but here we are. What can you do to put things right? Do you need my help with that?’♥️
As children grow, and especially by adolescence, we have the illusion of control but whether or not we have any real influence will be up to them. The temptation to control our children will always come from a place of love. Fear will likely have a heavy hand in there too. When they fall, we’ll feel it. Sometimes it will feel like an ache in our core. Sometimes it will feel like failure or guilt, or anger. We might wish we could have stopped them, pushed a little harder, warned a little bigger, stood a little closer. We’re parents and we’re human and it’s what this parenting thing does. It makes fear and anxiety billow around us like lost smoke, too easily.

Remember, they want you to be proud of them, and they want to do the right thing. When they feel your curiosity over judgement, and the safety of you over shame, it will be easier for them to open up to you. Nobody will guide them better than you because nobody will care more about where they land. They know this, but the magic happens when they also know that you are safe and that you will hold them, their needs, their opinions and feelings with strong, gentle, loving hands, no matter what.♥️
Anger is the ‘fight’ part of the fight or flight response. It has important work to do. Anger never exists on its own. It exists to hold other more vulnerable emotions in a way that feels safer. It’s sometimes feels easier, safer, more acceptable, stronger to feel the ‘big’ that comes with anger, than the vulnerability that comes with anxiety, sadness, loneliness. This isn’t deliberate. It’s just another way our bodies and brains try to keep us safe. 

The problem isn’t the anger. The problem is the behaviour that can come with the anger. Let there be no limits on thoughts and feelings, only behaviour. When children are angry, as long as they are safe and others are safe, we don’t need to fix their anger. They aren’t broken. Instead, drop the anchor: as much as you can - and this won’t always be easy - be a calm, steadying, loving presence to help bring their nervous systems back home to calm. 

Then, when they are truly calm, and with love and leadership, have the conversations that will grow them - 
- What happened? 
- What can you do differently next time?
- You’re a really great kid. I know you didn’t want this to happen but here we are. How can you make things right. Would you like some ideas? Do you need some help with that?
- What did I do that helped? What did I do that didn’t help? Is there something that might feel more helpful next time?

When their behaviour falls short of ‘adorable’, rather than asking ‘What consequences they need to do better?’ let the question be, ‘What support do they need to do better.’ Often, the biggest support will be a conversation with you, and that will be enough.♥️
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#parenting #positiveparenting #mindfulparenting #anxietyinkids

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