Love comes in many forms and can be expressed through many kinds of gifts. One gift every mother can give her children is to teach them about setting
and maintaining their personal boundaries. As a mother, you may have primary responsibility for nurturing your children’s self-esteem, preparing them to capably meet life’s challenges, and for helping them understand they deserve to feel good about themselves.
It all starts with teaching what it means to set boundaries and in coaching them to recognize when others are violating their boundaries. You have many opportunities to put the framework of boundary-setting and boundary-honoring around events and interactions. And, as much as you want your child to have a pain-free life, learning from the bad as well as the good is an important part of growing up.
If your vision of being the best mother you can be includes preparing your child for all the challenges of adulthood, and you’re not already teaching your children about personal boundaries, let this Mother’s Day be the day you start.
Six Personal Boundaries
Children believe what they are told about how to interact with others, and about their self-worth. When you teach them about setting and maintaining their personal boundaries, they learn their needs are important and that they are worthy of love and of choosing friends who can show them respect and honor for their boundaries. These are lessons that will stay with them for the rest of their lives, and will pay dividends in their choices as teenagers, choices about college majors and careers, choice of spouse, and even how they raise your grandchildren.
Stand Up for Yourself
There’s a right way and a wrong way to stand up for yourself, whether you’re being bullied or just expected to do something you know is wrong. Standing up for yourself means acting with respect and dignity, and when necessary, putting distance between yourself and the other person. (Insert link to broken dishes). This may be the most difficult lesson for your children to learn, and to teach them how to enforce, especially when they’re being bullied.
Learning to be yourself can come with making a lot of mistakes, even when you try to coach them on how to make good choices. Let them experiment in a wide variety of personal decisions for most everything that isn’t dangerous or irreversible. They’ll begin to recognize what they like and value and what they dislike and disregard.
Take Care of Yourself
Taking care of yourself includes everything from knowing how long you need to sleep, what to eat, when wear a coat and when you’re ready for sleep-away camp. It also includes letting them decide how to prepare for a school test and whether or not to complete a school assignment.
Watching your kids suffer the consequences of their decisions and their mistakes is often harder on us than it is on them. Doing the hard parenting stuff by not letting them do just the easy kid stuff is part of our responsibility and an important way they learn to be themselves.
Time Outs are Good
Taking care of yourself includes the right to give yourself a Time Out when you need it. Teach them how they can create their own happiness by figuring out how to manage their frustrations, disappointments and setbacks
Know When to Quit, and When to Persevere
Teaching children that stopping does not make then quitters, and perseverance is not the same as blind stubbornness, are valuable lessons. When children know that it’s also okay to change their minds, they’re more likely to try new things, to reach for bigger goals, and to realize when their dreams have changed. They also learn to own their power to do what is right for them, and to make changes when changes are necessary.
Love Has Boundaries, but No Limits
Love is a choice and is shown through your actions. Let your children know that they can continue to love someone while also choosing to create physical distance between them and another who does not respect their boundaries.
Setting limits is not the same as teaching how to set boundaries. Setting limits often stops at ‘No,’ and serve mainly to restricting your children’s actions. When you must set limits, use these opportunities to let them learn from the situation, to coach them to see their role, to identify others’ roles, and to talk about setting and honoring boundaries.
Live Honest, Open and True
Your role as a mother is to prepare your children for adulthood, so that they can function independently, handle life’s ups and downs, take responsibility for their decisions and actions and embrace their self-worth. Teaching your children how to set and maintain their personal boundaries is one of the most important gifts you can give them. With this gift, they are better equipped to handle the challenges of being a child, and better prepared to experience the rewards of being an adult.