Fences and Gates......... Boundaries
As a parent, we all want our child to be confident, assured and exploring the world while still knowing they are safe and have a soft place to fall. Children are always scanning for safety, a developmental need, and need to be clear about what safety is, what it feels like, what behaviors promote safety and who are the safe people.
Boundaries are the limits both physical and social we set in life that provide us autonomy, or independence and authority over our space. Boundaries communicate- "This is where you end- I am separate and that is a good thing."
Fences is a good way to think about boundaries. Because we also want relationships to grow when a child feels safe.We want to allow for comfort, affection and proximity as well as social engagement, we can teach our child to add gates that they control.
Children can get confused and start to lose the strength of their fences and forget to open or close gates. It is very important that children see boundaries modeled for them by you, their parent and by others in their life. It is also important that they are positively reinforced for making decisions to state and enforce their boundaries. Say your child is at a family function and Aunt Alice want to enfold them in a kiss, but your child does not really know or feel comfortable with Aunt Alice. Your child says no- well that could hurt your Aunt’s feelings, pressure from other family members might be applied- “Oh go on and give her a hug” etc. A simple statement of, “Well, (my child) only hugs people they really know well, I’m sure you understand. Maybe a high five would be ok?” This way you have met the family pressure need but not forced the child to ignore their boundaries and be overly physical with someone they do not know well. You have also modeled for them good boundaries and a way to nicely say no and still stay in relationship (although distant.) Your child has increased confidence and ability to manage these moments even when you are not present.
copyright Kristine Clay 2014