Helping Your Kids Set Boundaries

The things is, in a world that is ever encroaching on boundaries… physically, mentally, emotionally and even logistically we must teach and model boundaries to our kids.  It’s important because “every one of us must learn to self-advocate as part of our independent process. Our moms and dads won’t always be there to take care of us.  A parent’s job is to equip kids with coping skills to self-advocate,” said Walfish, also author of the book The Self-Aware Parent. 

Below, are some ideas Walfish shared about how parents can help their kids set boundaries… along with my own commentary.

Get clear on your own boundaries.

Work on setting your own boundaries with your kids and do it appropriately. This affects their behavior and models the right way to create their boundaries for themselves.

Identifying your boundaries and conveying them in a firm, non-negotiable but calm manner gives your children a healthy behavior to emulate. 

Help them honor themselves.

For instance, if you have a shy child, avoid pressuring them to talk to others — which will make them embarrassed and self-conscious and maybe shame the child.

Instead, in an empathic tone of voice say, “You know, I think you’re the kind of person who likes to take time and warm up to someone before you feel comfortable talking, and that’s fine.”

This way, you’re helping your child define a boundary. You’re helping them figure out what works for them and what doesn’t — and to honor that.

Talk about it.

Teach your kids about what it means to be a good friend, and how to deal with bullying or exclusion from the schoolyard. “If kids say, ‘you can’t play with us,’ teach your kids to say ‘you’re not being a good friend.”

Help them understand that kids who reject them aren’t nice kids — and who wants to hang out with mean kids anyway? Many of us pursue those who reject us, and that’s the wrong pursuit.  Be sure to talk to your child on their level, depending on age.  Don’t talk to a toddler like you would a teen and vice versa.


Ask your kids to play what-if scenarios.  I do this all the time in sessions with clients and it can be a great way to solidify a good behavior and valuable skills.  Ask them what they might say in certain situations. Avoid feeding them the answers, because this facilitates dependency and a tendency to always be looking to you for the answer. And it’s key to praise every increment toward your child’s autonomy.

It is also helpful to give your kids several key phrases they can use to self-advocate, and to teach them to use their words, not their hands.

Remember, boundaries are not necessarily barriers.  They are parameters to protect ourselves and our relationships.  Teach your children from the youngest age possible what this looks like and how to establish and maintain boundaries in a healthy and respectful way.

We understand that this sounds simple but it’s not easy.  We are always here to help.  Don’t hesitate to reach out if you have questions for us!  Give us a call at (562) 537-2947.  

Written by Lisa Smith

Helping Your Kids Set Boundaries