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  • Writer's pictureTricia Thornton

Empowering Children: Can We Create Boundaries and Give Choices?

This series will encompass three parts:

1. Can We Create Boundaries and Give Choices? - Understanding about boundaries and limits. How can we empower our children and still give them choices? How do we create boundaries within ourselves as parents and teach our children to develop healthy boundaries as well?

2. Do We Always Have to Put Up the Alley Guards? - How can we allow our children to fail and not rescue them? When is it good to let them experience heartaches? When should we step in?

3. Modeling: What is the Message We Want Our Children to Hear? - What are we conveying? What is co-regulation? What can we do to model good boundaries?

Boundaries...what are they and how do we make sure ours as parents are solid? A good place to start is to think of it this way, where do you end and your child begins? The definition of a boundary is a line that marks the limits of an area; a dividing line. We all have layers around us that we create to self-protect. It is up to each individual to decide who and how we let another person to come into our layers of boundaries. As we go through life, experiences whether positive or negative shape us. These events create feelings and emotions that influence our boundaries. What we value, think and believe all play a part as well. Developing your own personal boundaries as a parent is actually the most important step. Blurred boundaries as a parent can be very detrimental to the emotional growth of your child and to your parent/child relationship.

Setting boundaries within yourself takes time,

"It takes time, support, and relearning to be able to set effective boundaries. Self-awareness and learning to be assertive are the first steps. Setting boundaries isn’t selfish. It’s self-love – you say “yes” to yourself each time you say “no.” It builds self-esteem. But it usually takes encouragement to make yourself a priority and to persist, especially when you receive pushback." ( Once you have discovered your boundaries, share them with others. It is a good idea to not only tell them to someone but show them. In part three of this series, I will go more into about modeling boundaries as a parent.

One way to know if you have developed boundaries is to look for signs that yours may have become blurred with your child's. The following are signs that your boundaries may be a bit fuzzy...This site lists some good questions to ask yourself...

Are you...

  • Doing for your child what he can (or should) do for himself.

  • Constantly asking questions; interrogating your child over everything.

  • Letting your child invade your boundaries as a couple—making your kids the center focus at all times.

  • Over-sharing with your child about your life; treating them like a friend rather than your child.

  • Giving up your parental authority and allowing your child to take control of the household.

  • Living through your child vicariously; feeling as if their achievements are yours, and their failures are yours as well.

  • Your child is upset, and you fall apart.

What is the difference between a boundary and a limit? Giving children choices is a bit tricky.

Sometimes we get confused between a boundary and a limit. A boundary is the dividing line or location between two areas while a limit is a restriction; a bound beyond which one may not go. Parents often feel they have to set a boundary for their child but really they need to set a limit, not a boundary. Giving your child choices does not mean they get to break through your emotional boundaries. You can actually maintain your boundaries while still setting limits and giving children choices. Giving your child options actually empowers them to take responsibility and to make larger choices in their life, like breaking the rules or maintaining them. "To take this a step further, children who are allowed to choose learn that deciding between a good choice or a bad choice is actually deciding between a positive outcome or a predictable and undesirable negative consequence." (

Our emotional memories over our lifetime influence our boundaries. Learning to understand your triggers that cause you to react to emotional memories can help you to develop positive boundaries. Once you learn how to establish healthy boundaries, then teaching your child how to develop their own becomes easier. Knowing your triggers and how you respond to certain objects, events, places, and people will empower you to develop healthy boundaries. At that point, then you can show your child your boundaries. Your healthy boundaries will create positive emotional memories for your child, hence helping them to develop into a empowered child and then onto an adult. As we know, we all have to have heartaches to shape us into the adults we are now today. In the next article, I will discuss the ideas of knowing when to allow your child to fail and to grow from that experience.

Some resources to help you create strong emotional boundaries:


Boundaries by Henry, Dr. Cloud, John, Dr. Townsend

Boundaries Workbook by Henry Cloud, John Townsend


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