How to Teach Boundaries to Children with Activities

Rear view of a girl greeting her father at the front door
Using fun activities can help teach your children what their boundaries are and how to follow the rules. (Image: Jack Hollingsworth/Photodisc/Getty Images)

Boundaries, including both physical and social, are an important part of raising children who are respectful and who have self-control, say Henry Cloud and John Sims Townsend, authors of "Boundaries with Kids: When to Say Yes, When to Say No, to Help Your Children Gain Control of Their Lives." Setting clear boundaries with your children will help boost their self-esteem and will teach them the difference between appropriate behavior and inappropriate behavior. Using different activities to teach your children what their boundaries are will help motivate them to follow the rules.

Step 1

Teach your children what the boundaries are, including inappropriate and acceptable physical touch. For example, explain that while it's okay to give your immediate family members big hugs and kisses, it can be inappropriate to do the same with non-family members. Instead, a hand shake or quick hug is more appropriate in this situation. Encourage your children to take turns telling you what they believe good boundaries would be. Write down your expectations on a large piece of paper and hang it somewhere in your home so you children are regularly reminded of what is expected of them. Review the boundaries as needed if you notice them being breached more frequently.

Step 2

Demonstrate to your children how to work their problems out on their own. Solving your children's problems every time they experience something unpleasant will send the message that there are no boundaries for taking personal responsibility, say Cloud and Townsend. Roll play with your children to teach them how to discuss their problems and come to conclusion together rather than always coming to Mom and Dad. For example, next time your kids have an argument regarding boundaries at home, don't step in an settle it for them. Instead, work with them to discuss the problem and come up with a solution. Use this time to talk about boundaries within the family. Siblings need to respect each others privacy and belongings, so it's important that you teach your children to knock before entering each others rooms and to not take something that belongs to another family member without asking first.

Step 3

Read books about boundaries with your children, such as "An Exceptional Children's Guide to Touch: Teaching Social and Physical Boundaries to Kids," by Hunter Manasco. Allow your children to ask questions throughout the book to encourage them to broaden their understanding of what it means to follow the rules as they hear stories about other children doing so. Encourage your children to write their own stories that show what happens when children do not have boundaries. Read them out loud together. Parents might find the book "Boundaries with Kids," by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend helpful as well.

Step 4

Give your child undivided attention. Spend regularly scheduled time alone with each of your children, recommends Anne Katherine, author of "Boundaries: Where You End and I Begin," because it lets your children know that you are a safe place to go when they are experiencing difficulty in their lives. Knowing there is a safe adult to talk to sets important boundaries related to healthy peer and adult relationships between your children and others. Take a walk, go to museum or just sit and talk to define these boundaries.

Step 5

Create a time to have family meetings. Give each child a chance to express her successes, failures, questions and concerns, recommends Katharine. Children who feel as if they have a voice are more likely to follow your rules and adhere to your boundaries. Show your children that their opinions are important by carefully considering their perspective and explaining why you make your final decisions regarding their boundaries.

Things You'll Need

  • Paper

  • Marker

Tip

Be willing to change your boundaries as your children grow older and as their needs change and evolve. Successful boundaries are those that focus on the individual needs of your children, so feel free to set different boundaries for each of your children.

Warning

Do not use physical force, withdrawal of love or verbal taunts to try to persuade your children to adhere to your boundaries because these methods are unlikely to motivate your children to follow the rules.

REFERENCES & RESOURCES
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