When Holding Boundaries Feels Mean

Oct 13, 2022
When Holding A Boundary Makes You Feel Mean

Does the thought of holding a boundary make you feel mean or insensitive?  Do you find yourself holding boundaries from a place of anger or punishment?  If either of these is true for you, then you’re not using boundaries effectively and not getting the results you want with your kids.

In my last article, I reviewed three reasons why boundaries are important for kids: They help kids feel safe and secure, they help kids develop self-control, and they help teach kids how to stand up for themselves.  

I also mentioned that the key to using boundaries effectively in your parenting is to use them as an effective tool, and not from a place of anger or punishment.  Punishment or anger would detract from helping your kids feel secure, and you wouldn’t be modeling the way you want your kids to use them.  Effective boundaries don’t leave you feeling mean or insensitive.

As parents, we want our children to feel loved and cared for — and we also want to guide and teach them how to best navigate through life.  But these two aspects of parenting can often work against each other.  When our kids interpret our efforts to guide and teach as not loving or caring about them, it can leave us feeling mean or insensitive.

You might see this in a situation where your child is asking to do something that you do not believe is age-appropriate, or where they have not demonstrated that they are responsible enough to handle it yet.  How do we help our child understand that we are not saying no simply to be mean?

If we want our children to still feel loved and cared for while we are holding boundaries, we need to connect with them on an emotional level so they feel understood.

Here is what that might look like:

I know that you watch everything that your older brother does and you really want to do that too.

I understand it’s really frustrating that you can’t join him.

I know…  it’s so hard.

If your child will let you, give them a hug or even just a reassuring hand on their shoulder.  Take a deep breath, and give them time to process.  It might be really hard to wait but sit in silence until they start talking.

If your child keeps pushing, keep relating on an emotional level, and let them know when — in either age or what skills they need to demonstrate — for YOU to feel comfortable, and that they are ready for the responsibility.

I know this is so disappointing for you.  I would be disappointed too.

You’ll get there.  You’re going to have your chance to do that too when you’re 10.

My job is to keep you safe and I’m not comfortable that you’re ready yet.

Here’s what I will need to see to be comfortable.

Do you see in these examples how you can pay attention to how your child is feeling and say it out loud so they feel seen and understood?  You can be empathetic and understand that your child is frustrated and disappointed while holding the boundary and not giving in.

This is how you hold boundaries without feeling mean or insensitive.

One of the key factors in our ability to effectively implement and maintain boundaries is how we communicate with our kids.  If you want to add effective boundaries to your parenting toolbox, join me for my new workshop — Communicate For Cooperation, and learn to communicate like a parenting pro.  If you are sick of battling your kids and wish they would just listen and cooperate — Click here to register and learn how to communicate for cooperation instead of escalation.   

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