Limits and Boundaries

11 01 2013

Do you ever feel as though you’re wearing a sign on your back that says “On demand”?

“I need my water bottle”, “Fill in the order form for the hot lunches”, “Did you wash my TaeKwon Do uniform?”  “I don’t understand this question, I need your help”, “I can’t find my library book – it’s due tomorrow”, “Review my evaluations, you need to sign them”, “There’s a message on the computer, I don’t know what it means”  “The TV’s frozen, can you fix it” ….and since when did please and thank-you become optional?  Interestingly, in my house, most of these declarations and demands seem to come when I’m either on the phone, having a conversation with my husband, carrying a load of laundry down the stairs, or in the washroom – sound familiar?

Typically my response to such demands used to be shoulders up, shorten breathe, increase the heart rate and respond within seconds.  I recognize that when it came to my kids, my own limits and boundaries were not well defined, especially when they were younger, and everything seemed so URGENT!!  Yet something inside of me knew that the real urgency would be in rushing Mommy to the ER because the nervous twitch in her eye took over her whole body!

Beyond the adverse physical effects of my chosen behaviour, I wasn’t exactly mirroring to my children how to set their own boundaries or create space for themselves either.  It took a while, but I started to do things a little differently and it’s been a slow but incremental change process.

I started to use hand gestures for time out, taking a few breathes before responding, and articulating my needs and giving timeframes for when I would be ready to take action.  I can see now as the girls are getting older, how critical it is to lead by example and be comfortable drawing the line in the sand for myself, not just at home but in all areas of my life.  Beyond simply recognizing the importance of this concept of establishing limits and boundaries, I behave and choose differently, which allows me to feel more confident and credible especially when I’m supporting my kids in establishing healthy boundaries for themselves.

Notice the conversation you have with your kids when they tell you about the friend who is smothering them all the time and insisting that your child do everything they want to do, when they want to do it and on their terms.  How does your child react when you simply tell him/her “Just say know no” ?

Here are some questions (tried, tested and true) that you may want to ask to heighten the awareness in your child around where their personal boundaries lie, and have them feeling more confident about defining their limits:

  • What makes you feel respected?
  • How do you know when you’ve had enough?
  • What are other options that would make you feel good?
  • When you say yes all the time, what are you also saying no to?
  • What do you really want to say?
  • How can you say it in a way that feels right?
  • Who else can help you?

Defining boundaries and clear limits creates space, space to make one’s own decisions, space to honor one’s feelings, space to allow independence to be nurtured and space for happiness to flourish. Are you drawing the line in the sand?

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