Why Are Boundaries So Important?
Anyone who’s anyone will have heard about children pushing boundaries. For the most part, it’s an innocent “Oh! I though you hadn’t noticed me taking the entire packet of biscuits from the cupboard, even though you clearly said two were sufficient”. We expect this from children, and whilst we’re sometimes loathe to admit it: they can be pretty funny sometimes (who hasn’t eaten an entire packet of biscuits and hoped no one has noticed?)
The reason I tell parents about setting boundaries and, more importantly, sticking to your guns and following through, is essentially because it makes children feel safe; which is one of our main jobs as parents. If you look at Maslow’s hierarchy of needs (Maslow was a psychologist who was best known for creating a theory culminating in his hierarchy of needs). He theorized - and I’ve yet to find anyone who refutes this theory – that aside from out most basic needs (breathing, excretion, food, water, sleep and homeostasis), safety is absolute paramount: both emotionally and physically.
By setting boundaries and enforcing them, you are displaying to your children “I am in control and I will look after you”.
Imagine you are in a group of people that you don’t know. You’re on a mountaineering expedition (possibly for some ‘team building’ exercise for work, to make it realistic). You have a leader who you generally like, but a few times he’s put his foot down for reasons you don’t really understand and you think he’s a bit of a ‘…….’. However, he’s the only one who really knows what’s going on and he’s got you out of some sticky situations. You may not like him all of the time, but you feel safe knowing that he’s in control. We wouldn’t want a leader who, when we came to an unexpected cliff edge, looks around and asks “What do we do now?”. Someone who looks to unexperienced individuals and takes their advice. Our safety is in this guy’s hands and we look to him to know what to do and to provide safety.
Whilst we’re not mountaineering with our children in the physical sense (or maybe you are if you’re anything like my husband), we are their leaders. We are there to guide them and show them that we are in control: And we will look after them! They may resent us at that particular moment, but in the long run, they will feel safe and feel ready to progress to their higher needs of loving, belonging, confidence and self-actualisation, because we’ve taken the load off their shoulders by taking away any worries or thoughts of not feeling safe.