A boundary is meant to show the difference between what is allowed and what is not allowed, without keeping secret what would happen if the boundaries were not respected. It is advisable that boundaries are explained to lessen the defensive response from children. For a child, a NO can mean a YES because what is forbidden is usually more interesting. Replies such as: ’Don’t throw your toys’, ‘Don’t come out of the park’, ‘Stop hitting other children’ without uttering the consequences of these actions are void of meaning for a child. A positive message when enforcing boundaries is more likely to resonate with children: ‘Put the toys back if you no longer play with them. They can break when you throw them.’. You should play in the park. Outside the park there are many cars and you can get hurt.’. ‘When you play with others you should be friendly. If you hit someone, he gets hurt.’ A positive feedback given when children do positive things offers them confidence and it encourages them to repeat them.
Often, it is not easy to reach the desired outcome with children. Be it meal times, sleep times or other routines, children are always pushing boundaries. Positive discipline involves clear and reasonable boundaries.
How do we set clear and reasonable boundaries?
In order to set the clear and reasonable boundaries we need to be firm but understanding; we need to empathise with the situation in which they are. Being angry and aggressive in our tone with them can only disturb the good relationship.
Children need to know the ground family rules. Setting a schedule (meal times, sleep times, play times) sets routines which help the child know what to expect and therefore feel secure and safe. There doesn’t need to be a lot of rules. It is best that the few we establish are done with the child’s active participation.
Boundaries have to be respected by all, including the adult. The child will be tempted to push the limits and break the rules, but we should acknowledge the effort of not breaking the boundaries when deserved. Our acknowledgement will encourage the child.