When talking about boundaries, “talk to the hand because the ears aren’t listening” may be at the top of your list of phrases to use to protect yourself. Unfortunately, it’s not a very constructive solution, especially when it comes to boundaries in parent-child relationships.
But as a parent, why is it a necessity to set boundaries with your child? And how do you even do so?
Here’s what you should know about it with some guidance from parenting and relationship experts, including the author of Mindvalley’s Conscious Parenting Mastery Quest, Dr. Shefali Tsabary.
What Are Boundaries in Relationships?
Boundaries can’t be discussed without first understanding what they are.
Most of us have learned that boundaries in relationships — whether it’s family, friends, romantic, or work — are about putting space between ourselves and the other person. It’s putting our foot down. It’s about saying “no.” And that enough is enough.
And more often than not, we’re not always entirely comfortable with setting them because of the potential ruckus it may cause with the other person. Many of us are either too “wishy-washy” or too controlling because as humans, we have a desire to be perfect, to please, and to accommodate.
While all this is true, it doesn’t paint the full picture of what boundaries really are.
“A boundary is often seen as something hard or negative or something that creates conflict within us,” explains Dr. Shefali Tsabary, who’s also a clinical psychologist and best-selling author. However, it’s far from that. In reality, it’s really “an expression of our self-worth.”
Simply put, it’s about you knowing your:
- Deal breakers
And put in the ability to communicate them in your relationships… Well, that’s basically what boundaries are.
Boundaries in relationships when it comes to your child
Any parent knows that it’s in their child’s nature to test limits. A few ways your child may be pushing boundaries include:
- Reaching for things they shouldn’t touch
- Interrupting your conversations without saying “excuse me” or politely waiting for their chance to get your attention
- Throwing tantrums when gadget time is over
- Barging into your room (or a sibling’s room) without knocking
- Sneaking in after their curfew
As a parent, it can be challenging, yes. It can be stressful, for sure. But the upside is that pushing boundaries and understanding limits is an important part of growing up for your child.
Why Do You Need to Set Boundaries in Parent-Child Relationships?
While a parent’s love for their child is undeniable, there are times that parents blur the boundaries in their relationships. If you’re wondering if you’re doing so, here are some signs to look for:
- Doing things for your child that they can (or should) do for themselves.
- Constantly asking questions that can be seen as borderline interrogation.
- Your child is the center of focus at all times, so much so that you forget about your partner.
- Treating them like a friend instead of your child. (Remember Regina George’s mom on Mean Girls?)
- Living vicariously through your child, pushing them to participate in sports or competitions that they may not have an interest in.
And when there’s no structure or too much rigidity, your child may lash out. A 2014 study found that when boundaries aren’t set up between family members, it can negatively influence both parents and children as well as promote the risk for aggression problems.
“Because they’ve been so used to being dependent on you and have you be dependent on them, there’s this toxic dependency, this codependency that gets created, that will go along with your children into adulthood,” explains Dr. Shefali.
So if you want your child to be in healthy relationships as they grow up — where they’re not dependent on other people to meet their inner needs — then it needs to begin here with you accepting them as their own individual self, separate from you.
Boundaries in relationships when it comes to you, as the parent
When our boundaries are constantly being disrespected, it primes us for annoyance. But normalizing being annoyed is a sure sign that something else is going on internally, according to Terri Cole, celebrity psychotherapist and author of Boundary Boss.
“You don’t want to walk around either being highly annoyable [or] judging the crap out of every so much,” she says in an interview with Dr. Shefali. “So much of this has to do with our lack of satisfaction.”
She has a point. But we’re not all born with self-awareness, nor are many of us taught how to get in tune with our consciousness.
Most of us have not been raised to listen to ourselves, so we don’t know if we’re just being dramatic or high maintenance. Or is it a real preference, a real desire?— Dr. Shefali Tsabary, author of Mindvalley’s Conscious Parenting Mastery Quest
And because we’re so preoccupied with making sure everyone else around us has what they need, we tend to forget to dial into what we want and need.
So, how do you get to know what the boundaries you need are? Terri suggests taking these three simple steps:
- Think about your relationship with your child.
- Take an inventory of where you’re okay or not okay. That’s a good indication of if a bridge has been crossed or a need is not getting met, and where you may want to consider setting a boundary.
- Do this for all aspects of your parent-child relationship. From small things (such as if you like that your child knocks before entering your room) to big things (such as if you like the interactions you have with your child).
And once you have that, you can start setting those boundaries in place.
How Can You Set Conscious Boundaries in Your Relationships With Your Child?
As parents, we all cross boundaries with our children at one time or another. We’re only human, after all. But the important thing to remember is to be conscious of when you do it and refrain from making it a habit.
So, how do you set conscious boundaries in your parent-child relationship? Here are three tips that can help you get there:
#1: Nurture your inner child
Your inner child should be your main focus of attention. This is the basis of Dr. Shefali’s Conscious Parenting Mastery Quest at Mindvalley.
She explains, “it’s our conditioning as children that impede the present moment. And unless we discover how it is that our past obstructs the present, we will not be fruitful in almost any relationship, least of all that with our child.”
So in order for you to stop projecting your self-destructive patterns, it’s important for you to focus on healing the wounds from your childhood. It’ll also help you come to a place of love and self-awareness, allowing you the opportunity to attune and connect with your own child.
#2: Establish effective communication
Children pick up on your subconscious actions, even when you suppress your stress. So, since you’re the adult in the relationship, model the behavior you want to see in your child, especially when it comes to parent-child communication.
Every interaction with our children is a reflection of our relationship with ourselves.— Dr. Shefali Tsabary, author of Mindvalley’s Conscious Parenting Mastery Quest
So speak to your child in a kind tone. When it comes to discipline, be firm and friendly. Teach them to express their opinions, needs, and wants in a kind, respectful manner. And because listening is part of communication, it’s important to actively listen when your child talks, too.
When you communicate openly and effectively, chances are, your child will, too.
#3: Let go of control
Parents often have a need to control and coerce their child’s behaviors. And when things don’t go according to plan, you get triggered by your emotions. So work on nurturing deep, meaningful bonds between you and your child.
The real challenge of life is to operate from the heart. The headspace is full of fear, control, and doing. The heart allows us to be intuitive, clear, and in the flow.— Dr. Shefali Tsabary, author of Mindvalley’s Conscious Parenting Mastery Quest
Boundaries aren’t about restrictions; they’re about structure. So make like Elsa from Frozen and let it go.
Step Into Your Parental Awakening
Children don’t intentionally push limits if they’re unaware it exists in the first place. But by teaching them about boundaries now, you’re building healthy, positive, and respectful habits so that they’ll recognize and honor the boundaries in their future relationships.
It’s not your job as a parent to have children. Instead, it’s your job to raise them — to nurture more authentic, fulfilled, and self-aware children.
And we get it — parenting can be hard. So it’s time you step into your parental awakening with Mindvalley’s Conscious Parenting Mastery Quest where you’ll be guided by Dr. Shefali herself.
What’s even better is that with Mindvalley Membership, you’ll have access to a tribe made of other parents you can connect with who are going through the same thing as you. Share your learnings, struggles, and challenges in a safe space with a community you’ll feel supported by.
That’s the beauty of being a parent at Mindvalley. Welcome in.