“Do I HAVE To?” Teaching Kids to Respectfully Set Boundaries

Every parent has more than likely had the experience of making a request of a child only to hear the long-drawn out whine back, “But Mooooom, do I haaaaaaave to?” clothes on stairs

While you want your children to recognize their own value and to be in alignment with their true selves, it can be unpleasant and frustrating when your kids push back.

Setting boundaries is an important skill for children to learn. They need to practice these skills so later it will be easier to stand up for themselves in the face of pressure from their peers, a boss, a significant other, or even their community.

In most cases, setting your boundaries can be done in a way that is respectful of all parties. It allows your children to be their authentic selves without causing harm to another.

The best way to do this is to teach your kids to check in with their Internal Guidance System before they respond.

Setting boundaries is not an adversarial situation. It is a way for both parties to be heard and state their needs as opposed to putting up a metaphorical brick wall. By keeping the dialogue open, new solutions may be reached that neither party thought of, thus allowing everyone to be happy.

You can help your child practice this skill with a little role-playing.

One subject that frequently results in battles between children and parents is subject of room cleaning. The parent wants the room to be clean and they don’t want to have to clean it for their kids. Most kids don’t want to be bothered.  Whether their room is clean to Mom or Dad’s standards is just not important to them.

There is no better opportunity for both parent and child to practice respectfully setting boundaries.

Imagine you are walking by your son’s bedroom. Looking in, you see that it is a disaster area. Clothes are strewn all over and you can’t even see the floor. Check in with your IGS to see how that feels. Now ask your child to imagine the same scene. When he senses your reaction to the mess, how does that feel to him? More than likely, neither of you are feeling too happy right about now.

Now imagine you walk by your son’s room and it is neat as a pin, but you had to do all the work to get it there. How does that feel for you? And how does it feel to your son?

Have your son check in with his IGS and determine what is important to him. It may be that he wants his privacy and space and doesn’t want you to come into the room.  It doesn’t bother him if his room is a mess.

Check in with your IGS to see what is truly important to you. You may discover that you can tolerate a little mess, but you can’t deal with his having food in the room that could attract pests.

Once you have both determined what is important, you can work out a solution. One possibility is for him to keep his door closed so you don’t see the mess, but he won’t have food in his room.

By learning to set boundaries while respecting others, you teach your children important life skills. They learn to express their needs and to assert themselves. They also learn to listen to the needs of others and to seek out solutions rather than to win an argument.

It can be surprising how what you often thought was your “line in the sand” will actually shift when you take the time to really listen to each other and check in with your IGS’s.

For more, please visit www.SharonBallantine.com.


2 thoughts on ““Do I HAVE To?” Teaching Kids to Respectfully Set Boundaries

  1. IGS! I love that. And what a perfectly topical topic for me and my teenager. I must admit more times than not, I’ll make his bed, and he definitely loves that and tells me. My plan is that by the time he leaves my home he will have a high level of tidiness and not torture his college roommates with disaster. It worked on my oldest so I’m trying again! Your advice is right on–checking in with both individual’s IGS and constructing compromise. So crucial in relationships of any kind.

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