Boundaries and Reactions

For a child, not having secure and safe boundaries for their behaviour, their routines and their everyday living, can be a constant level of stress that sits in the body. This constant stress can destabilise their natural playfulness and exhibit in challenging and often out of control behaviours. This should not surprise us, as adults without laws can be a little challenged and, dare we say, display out of control behaviours as well.

Children are very likely to challenge their boundaries as they grow and develop. To have no secure and consistent boundaries means they are abandoned to their own devices to self-regulate. It is rare for children to have the capacity to do that. They need to have boundaries. The boundaries are like a barn door for a goat, they can hit their head against the constriction again and again and as they do, they learn to be responsive to the consequences of their choices. In this case their body gives them an egg on their head. Ouch!

What is acceptable behaviour is not about control, or raising compliant children, it is about children learning what responsibility, decency and respect are.

But why are they reacting? Why are they hitting their head against the barn door? Has some verbal or non-verbal communication already happened and we have missed it? If we want to get underneath these reactions, we need to listen to everything we are seeing and hearing, we need to turn up our communication radar. Are they trying to tell us something and we are missing the truth they are trying to convey? When you feel you have a truth to communicate it becomes all-consuming to communicate it and when someone doesn’t listen we have a reaction because we don’t feel heard, understood, valued and respected. Hence the reaction, as you were not listened to. The point about reactions is:

If you are in reaction, you will not treat people with decency or respect because nothing matters at that point other that the reaction.

If we have a base line where responsibility, decency and respect are key principals that underlie our parenting, then it is less about negotiation and a very simple process of ‘ok you make your choice, but whatever you choose, just think – the next choice will not be yours – instead, it will be mine, and you will come face-to-face with the consequences of your choice’.

In addition to those principals, children need to know how important it is to tell the truth and never hold back on what that truth is. The truth may be hard to hear sometimes, but if we shut children down from telling the truth we are opening a world of challenging compliant behaviour. That potentially opens them up to not feeling safe to speak up when something harmful is happening to them or around them.

This is something everyone in the family needs to practice and respect as it is unlikely that we have been parented in this way.

Photo by Ketut Subiyanto from Pexels


Further reading

What do our children see?

Trust and truth in families

Backing each other

Rules, standards and boundaries

Falling in love with appreciation