How to teach children about boundaries


How do you set boundaries for yourself and your children? Boundaries are important because they are the physical, emotional, and mental limits we establish to protect ourselves from being manipulated, used or violated by others. And boundaries help us separate our own feelings from those of others. But boundaries are tricky.

Nikki Knepper, Clinical Psychotherapist and Gerontologist, spends a lot of time talking with her clients about setting boundaries.

“Boundaries keep you safe and also give you a lot of freedom,” Knepper said. “It’s about having structure and having flexibility within that structure.”

“I like to use a coffee cup metaphor to help explain what boundaries are,” Knepper said. “If I offer you coffee but don’t offer you a cup, you have to hold your hands out for me to pour the coffee,” Knepper explained. “You need a boundary, you need structure because if you pour the coffee in your hand it will leak, it will burn. The cup is the boundary.”

“Now, have you ever left coffee in your cup for a long time and it leaks through? Boundaries need to be continually fortified and you have to re-set them.The idea of boundaries is you have a structure, you set a boundary but there is flexibility.”

“When you have young children you often have to set boundaries for the children that they might not set for themselves,” Knepper said. “This is a great way to talk to kids about boundaries”

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