I'm not just talking about my personal boundaries. For me, a hug from a stranger can be equated to having a root canal...painful and very unwanted. I'm talking about all boundaries that I set for me and my family.
Yesterday, I took my son to the park in our neighbourhood. As per usual he ran STRAIGHT toward the sandbox which is his favourite spot. He picked up one of the trucks and played with it for so a nice chunk of time. Then, as he is wont to do, he left the truck behind for another toy. Cut to about 15 minutes later when another child joined him in the sandbox and picked up his discarded truck, my son went straight to him to grab it back. I told my kid, "no, you put it down. Now it's his turn and we can play with something else". My intention was to set a boundary and teach him about taking turns and sharing.
Well, the other kid's mom swoops right in and gives the truck back to my son. "No no, we can share, he can have it", she says.
I know that she had good intentions. I know that she was trying to be nice, and maybe even teach her son about sharing in her own way. Maybe she was trying to avoid making my son cry. But here's the thing, she blew RIGHT through the boundary I laid down and didn't think twice about my perspective. He learned NOTHING from that interaction other than he gets what he wants if he takes it.
If that mom had told her toddler son not to go down the slide only to have me say "No no, he'll be fine, I'll help", I would find that COMPLETELY inappropriate. I respect the boundaries you set for yourself, your child and your family and I would like you to do the same for me.
Here's the thing about boundaries, I believe that children THRIVE when boundaries are set. I believe that if kids know the parameters around a situation they can open up to explore the possibilities around them. I, for instance, take my son to a park that is totally fenced in. My boundary is that he has to stay in the fence but can go ANYWHERE in that area. Yes I am with him, but I let him explore his surroundings and decide for himself where he would like to play. That is a healthy boundary.
I have MANY healthy boundaries for my child. I provide dinner, at a certain time and at the dinner table, he can decide what he wants to eat out of what has been provided to him. No, I will not make him another meal if he doesn't want to eat what's in front of him. That boundary has done WONDERS for my sanity and has encouraged my son by making him think that he has some power in that situation.
After dinner, is bath time, he can decide what towel he gets to use. Again, a perception of power. The boundary has been set that bath will happen, but he can make a choice about what he gets to use afterwards.
I am a FIRM believer that setting a healthy boundary around bedtime leads to great sleep success. Bedtime for Jack is 7pm and in his crib in his room, that is the boundary. He picks his pyjamas and we read two books, a quick song and then lights out. Sure, he talks to himself for about 10 minutes, and then he's out. He has some choice, but ultimately needs to adhere to the boundary that's been set. If he were to fight me on bedtime, I would enforce my boundary by maybe going to his crib and reminding him that it's time to sleep. I wouldn't just say, "oh well, no more bedtime for you. You don't seem to like it so I better just let you stay up all night". I know that he thrives when he is well rested (as do I) and I know that the boundary I have set is in his best interest.
Think of it this way, you may set a boundary that your child isn't allowed to play in the street. If junior throws a tantrum because he REALLY wants to play in the street, would you cave in and let him do it? Of course not! You know that the street isn't a safe space for him to play, so you'd enforce your boundary.
I advocate ALL parents to set healthy boundaries with their children! I would also just like to remind parents to maybe take a quick second to think about other parents that they come into contact with and respect boundaries that they have set for their kids. You don't have to agree with my boundaries, I don't have to agree with yours, but there should be a mutual respect for all parents out there just trying to do their best.
If you are struggling with setting boundaries, or want some help enforcing a boundary around sleep, let me know!! I can help!