It’s absolutely a fact that your boundaries will be breached. In fact, we usually start to build them based on things that we have experienced in the past that we decided we didn’t like—after the fact. Sadly however, that’s where most people’s ideas of boundary setting and enforcement ends. Enforceable boundaries are so much more than that. Boundary setting and enforcement include verbal and non-verbal skills (communication), understanding and being vulnerable, understanding trust, touch, emotion, personal value, ideals, goals, relationship context, learning healthy compromise, enlisting the help of others, all the way through having the ability to physically enforce if necessary.
Enforceable boundary setting involves the development of a host of skills. You don’t just “know” how to do it. It takes education. It takes practice.
My kids are a bit older now and the one thing I can tell you about raising them is that their memories are selective. They remember negative things more than they remember the positive things. I could go into why that happens but it doesn’t really matter for our conversation. It’s what they naturally do and it’s normal. My kids can tell me everything I ever did wrong as a parent—in order. Only occasionally will they throw me a bone and tell me something I did right. That said, I can also say that kids are listening and watching you. Closely. They are more likely to take note of the things you do versus the things you say in my experience. It’s important then that we aren’t sending them mixed signals about boundaries. We must have them ourselves. We must value ourselves enough to build, enforce, and when they fail, re-establish our boundaries.
The second step is meeting the needs of your children as wholly as possible. By meeting needs we reduce their vulnerabilities. It’s a fact that even staple items such as food, clothing, and material possessions are used to exploit children and young adults. But it’s not always the physical desires and wants, it can just as easily be that our child feels “alone” and is seeking someone to actually listen to them. They may have friends and be active in sports but still feel lonely. Being busy is not the same as being engaged.
We have to be actively tuned into our children and take their “temperature” in the area of emotional needs just as we might in physical areas. And it goes beyond just meeting their needs. We have to be willing to put ourselves out a bit to meet at least some of their wants. And no, I’m not saying that we should give them all the toys, clothes, games and things their little hearts desire. That’s not even a possibility for the vast majority of us anyway. We do, however, need to meet our children where they are at—that might mean stretching occasionally a bit to give into a want here and there.
I have three daughters and each is very different in what they respond positively to and what satiates them emotionally. For one it is touch and words of affirmation. For another it’s gifts and doing things. For the third it’s being a good listener and hearing her. Most of these things are not natural for me to do, but as a parent I need to do these things for them. It is part of meeting their needs.
Just consider that anything you are not doing as a parent to meet their needs and wants gives room for someone else to come along and meet them. The worse you are at meeting their needs the less say you’ll have as to who that is, and how it is done. Particularly as they get older. Be the example for your own family of what healthy relationships and communication looks like. Educate them through the experience of what you’re doing and what you’re saying. Also, understand that your child’s needs and wants will change and grow as they do.
Consider that every year of life your kids will need an upgraded education. As parents you’re going to need to earn some Continuing Education Units or something to keep up. It’s not one and done. It is ongoing. None of us has all the answers and life can throw some big curveballs at us. We may have to learn to respond to the changes accordingly by getting our own upgrades and continuing our own education.
If you want those kinds of upgrades, the ones that will help you in your own walk on this earth as well as that of your children, then the Firebrand Alliance has courses that can take you there. We are always developing more and looking at ways to expand our materials to meet the needs of the people on the front lines—you!
The third thing is spending the time to grow your communication skills. Learning how to be an active listener is a big step. Truly listening to the things your child tells you. Intently listen. Don’t listen to respond. Listen to hear. Things you might be doing but that don’t count are listening while you’re watching T.V. or scrolling on your phone. Take the time to be as present as you can possibly be—as often as you possibly can. Learn the skills of communication that you probably didn’t see modeled for you in your own life. I certainly didn’t. It takes patience as your 16 year old starts to tell you everything that’s going on in their head or all of your children are talking at the same time. It’s truly a challenge sometimes to manage the chaos but this is where establishing a household where boundaries exist for everyone becomes important.
A child’s voice needs to be as valued as the adults in the house. This can be terribly difficult. Perhaps harder than all of the rest of what I’ve written. Especially when you are already feeling rushed and hurried, or feeling the pressure of something else pushing you along. The skills of communication are critical to learn so that you are most prepared to really hear what your child is saying. It is often the case that a child who has been abused or is dealing with some kind of struggle or vulnerability will only hint around at something to see how you respond. Particularly if they feel like they might be partially at fault and that is often the way a predator will make them feel.
Communication needs to be open, honest, trusting, emotionally regulated and judgement free. You must learn to emotionally self-regulate—that is a critical component to good communication and an excellent overall skill for personal safety. In that way you will maintain that communication line and the trust you build as your child ages. It can be terribly difficult when you see your child doing something that you know is harmful and you want to shake them out of it and yank them back to reality, but in my experience that typically does more harm than good. And here’s a consideration for you; sometimes you may need a mediator to help you or you may need to have your husband or wife take the lead in a conversation. Whatever it takes.
To learn more about creating enforceable boundaries for you and your children cruise on over and take the Build Enforceable Boundaries course.