Clear Boundaries

Hello and welcome :)

If this is your first visit, please be sure to catch up on my previous blogs as they’re part of a series covering building resilience in our kids.

Todays blog is based on Building Block # 7 in Maggie Dent’s wonderful book “Real Kids in an Unreal World”.

As I wrote in my blog titled “Resilience in our Kids in these busy times”.

If Mum and Dad are both working then when and how does the family unit make time to connect, relax and have fun together? What an incredible juggling act this must be for parents.

More importantly, when do parents have the opportunity to take the time needed to install the firm boundaries required for the “healthy growth of a moral and social code that helps in later life”?

To be honest with you, I feel a bit overwhelmed as I write this, as there is an abundant amount of information around boundaries and their importance in children’s lives from an early age.

Creating Healthy Boundaries (Picket fence).jpg

So…….Let’s break this down a bit and begin with the importance of children possessing healthy personal boundaries.

I know that now, more than ever, parents are aware of how important it is for children to have a strong sense of self, with personal boundaries and an ability to know when someone’s behaviour towards them is unacceptable and to communicate that. This contributes to their emotional, mental and physical safety and prevents them from being used, manipulated and violated by others.

The benefits of having healthy personal boundaries include:

  • Improved self- confidence and self-respect

  • A greater ability to communicate with others

  • Being more in touch with reality

  • Having more fulfilling relationships

  • Having more stability and control over our lives

  • Preserving our integrity

  • Taking responsibility for who we are

  • Not allowing others to define us

  • The ability to express ourselves as the unique individuals we are

  • The ability to recognise and respect the strengths, abilities, individuality and personal boundaries of others

I say, the best way to foster these qualities in our amazing little human beings is to teach them from an early age as possible.

How? By establishing boundaries and routines for them to follow.

Why do children need boundaries? The simple answer is; to reduce chaos and uncertainty in their lives. Children like to be able to predict coming events and anticipate their world. This gives them a sense of order and security.

I experienced this very thing first hand when I was working at a Reception Centre in Burwood. This was a centre for children who were wards of the state. More often than not, these kids were removed from their parents or relinquished by their parents as they weren't able to provide proper care for one reason or another. The children stayed at the centre until such time as they were either returned home or fostered out. I’ll be honest, there were times of heartbreak in that job, but here was one HUGE “takeaway” or “aha” moment for me. Yes, of course these kids were sad and troubled to be away from their homes and parents, but I can tell you that they also had a sense of security because of the boundaries and routines. Once they came through our doors, they knew that they would have clean clothes, regular meal times and hygiene and bedtime routines and rules to follow for theirs and others safety and well-being. To say that they thrived would probably be an exaggeration because they were, after all, in an institution. But, as well as some difficult behaviour, I witnessed laughter, happiness and some great play and co-operation. I learned then that boundaries mean someone cares.

These are just a few of the key areas where boundaries and routines are vital to children’s health and wellbeing:

  • sleep

  • meal times

  • food choices

  • manners

  • hygiene

  • school

  • body safety awareness

  • screen use

  • content of movies and TV shows

There are quite a lot more, but I may leave them for another time.

I know there are still parents out there who insist that their child doesn’t need much sleep. It’s just not true, and there are SO many studies which have proven this.

Here’s a few little fun facts……

Sleep disorders can impair a child’s IQ just as much as lead exposure.

Tired children cannot remember what they have just learned.

Tired children also have poor impulse control and poor problem-solving abilities.

The more you learn during the day, the more sleep you need during the night so the brain can process and consolidate the memories.

Children (from babies to teens) often display inappropriate behaviour in an attempt to cope with their inability to manage their world due to lack of sleep.

Sleep deprivation and inconsistent bedtimes impact on learning, moods and behaviour.

For some more info about sleep, visit:

What about meal times, food choices and manners?

Well for starters, regular times and patterns help children and the rest of the family in many ways. They promote connectedness in the family and give the parents an opportunity to teach children patience and basic table manners and etiquette. Parents now are taking their children to restaurants a whole lot more than what we did. My personal observation is that unless the child has a tablet or phone in front of them, they have no idea how to be comfortable and behave appropriately in a restaurant.

Give your kids healthy food choices. If they’re a bit picky, just be clear about their (healthy) choices if they refuse to eat the family meal. Don’t keep the tempting sugary, salty, highly processed stuff in the pantry. If it’s unavailable, it makes it much harder for kids to make unhealthy choices.

I spoke of screen time in my blog titled “Plenty of Play” and the importance of moderation and not allowing it to interfere with family time, sleep time and real play opportunities.

There’s more to it, much more…… To quote Maggie Dent “You only learn how to be a human from humans.” In the early years children need to learn how to interact, have conversations, how to win and lose and how to develop friendships. Children cannot learn this from a screen. One cannot learn what is real and what isn’t from a virtual reality world (not just in games and movies, but on reality TV shows too).

Apart from making today’s children more sedentary and passive, there are other consequences at play.

Other things to consider and observe very carefully are:

  • A child’s ability to play with real people (and lose)

  • Is the show/ game age appropriate?

  • Is the child disconnecting from the outside world?

  • How’s their posture?

  • Aggressive and violent content WILL change a child’s behaviour according to validated studies.

We don’t really know a child’s emotional processing abilities are. But, we do know that children spooked by movies which their parents thought would be ok but are too scarey for them have damage which sets them up for anxiety issues for life. Let’s also include News shows as well. There’s a lot of violence and terror out in the world being reported daily on the news. If this stuff is scaring you, then can you imagine how it is for your children? They don’t need to see this stuff yet.

My final word on inappropriate screen viewing is this….

A lot of what is out there on TV, Internet, YouTube, Facebook etc is promoting children to hurry up and grow up. The consumer-driven world is distorting our children’s place in this world. It is sexualising and objectifying them (girls in particular), sending them a clear message that they are merely the sum of their body parts. I believe this has a direct link to self-destructive behaviours (eating disorders and self-harm) as well as depression, anxiety and low self-esteem.

Phew! That’s a lot of hard work, isn’t it? it’s actually a real hard job raising children. Our modern culture is fast and more and more inappropriate stuff is becoming “acceptable”. This makes it more difficult to install in our children a healthy sense of self and individuality as well as respect for themselves and others.

Be courageous Mum and Dad. Be strong and loving and vigilant with maintaining the boundaries for your children because they are worth all this effort. Create the space for your children to be children and to grow up at the right time. They're only children for such a short time. The end result will be a beautiful, confident, respectful human with a great sense of self. Who doesn’t want that for their kids?????

If you want to discuss any of this content with me, I invite you to contact me by phone or email. Share this with your friends. Get a conversation started and create a network, and surround yourself and your children with like-minded parents.

Well, that’s it for now. My next blog in the series will be about absence of stress. Join me please!

Until then……… :)

Dragonfly for Blog.jpg

I love helping families feel happier! If you would like to chat about how I can help you, and you live in Melbourne, follow this link to my “Contact Me” page.

This piece is written with the intention of helping parents create happier and more resilient children and is subject to copyright. Please contact the author if you wish to publish elsewhere.