Boundaries are the invisible line we allow people to cross—or not—in our physical and emotional space. Teaching your child to set and enforce solid boundaries is the second most important thing you’ll ever teach him (the first is trusting his intuition).
You can explain boundaries to your child in this way:
“Your body and feelings are so special, and they belong only to you. I want to tell you about a way to keep your body and feelings safe. Look at your body. Do you see how your skin protects your body from things like dirt and rain and germs? Well, there’s a thing called boundaries that do the same thing to protect your body and your feelings from things other people may do or say to you.
“Boundaries are like invisible fences or rules that keep some things out and other things in. A body boundary is a rule that keeps people from touching our bodies in ways we don’t like or feel comfortable with. An emotional boundary is a rule that helps us when people say and do things that make us feel sad, bad, mad, or scared.
“It’s my job as your parent to help you set your boundaries and teach you how to use them to stay safe. One boundary rule is that we don’t let other people touch our private parts, except when mommy or daddy are cleaning you or you go to the doctor for a check-up. The way you protect your body boundary if someone else tried to touch your private parts would be to yell ‘No!’ and get away from them as fast as you can. Then you should come and tell me right away.
“Another boundary rule is that we don’t let people say mean things that hurt our feelings. So, if someone said, ‘You’re stupid,’ you could put up an emotional boundary by saying, ‘That’s not nice. Please don’t talk to me like that.’
“Sometimes when you set a boundary, you might feel afraid that you’ll hurt the other person’s feelings or make them mad, but keeping you safe is more important than their feelings. And if they’re doing something you don’t like, they need to know that. If they get mad at you, get away from that person and come tell me right away.”
Try not to confuse your child by saying things that might cause him to override his intuition and boundaries, like, “Do whatever the babysitter tell you to do,” which might make him meekly obey the sitter even if she does something that violates a boundary.
Also, it’s your job to help your child recognize when his boundaries are being crossed and remind him to enforce them. For example, if you see someone disrespect him or hug him without permission, you need to step in right then, in front of your child, and explain what his boundaries are and that they need to respect them.
Just as your child might be afraid of hurting someone’s feelings or making them mad, you too might be nervous about saying something. Get over it. The 15 seconds of discomfort you and the other person might feel are worth it to protect your kid.
Be the parent your child deserves!
the Badass Grandma
About Badass Parenting
In Badass Parenting: Prepare Your Kids to Deal with Danger without Scaring the Hell out of Them, danger expert CJ Scarlet helps parents teach their children how to avoid and handle themselves in scary situations ranging from bullying and digital dangers to sexual abuse, sex trafficking, and kidnapping.
After reading this book, you’ll feel more knowledgeable and confident in your ability to talk candidly with your child at her age and maturity level without scaring her to death. It’s time to ditch the worry and get some sleep!
Edgy, funny, and irreverent, this unputdownable book (with TONS of downloadable bonus content!) is the new bible for parents looking to raise safe, savvy, confident kids.
“Finally, a book about parenting that doesn’t scare the crap out of you!!!! We live in one of the safest times to be alive, and yet, most of us are terrified. Parents – especially so. It is refreshing to have a book that realistically looks at the real dangers our kids face and help us – (a) not freak out, (b) figure out how to help our kids deal with the risks without traumatizing them, and (c) does so while making us laugh! A trifecta. I honestly wish CJ Scarlet’s book existed when my son was younger. I would have handed it out to every freaked-out parent I met at every mommy and me playdate I went to. Parenting is hard enough; we don’t need to generate extra unnecessary hysteria. This book will help you realistically face the dangers of parenting (real or imagined) with love and humor. Thank you, CJ!”
Jennifer Hancock, author of The Bully Vaccine