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Use Empathy To Set Healthy Boundaries

Practicing and modeling healthy boundaries is a crucial skill for parents and caregivers. Boundaries help our kids feel safe and help them understand what is OK and what is not OK when it comes to behavior. It also helps them learn about consent and autonomy.

The problem is that we often attempt to establish a boundary in the heat of the moment. For example, when your child or teen is disrespectful or defiant, you may say “it, it’s not OK to talk to me like that!” You may even say it calmly, but I suspect you’re churning inside.

To me, it’s all about how you get there, not if you get there when it comes to boundaries (and pretty much everything else ;)

In the heat of the moment, I invite you to pause, and notice what’s happening with your own body and breath.

Then remember that behavior is communication. When your child or teen is acting, defiant and disrespectful, there’s a good chance they’re feeling overwhelmed on the inside like the kid in this picture.

Empathy does not say your behavior is OK. It says I see you and hear your feelings. It says I can hold all of you.

Later on when everyone calms down, expectations regarding what’s ok and what’s not ok - i.e. boundaries can be discussed and agreements made.

For more about behavior as communication, read "Helping Your Child Feel Heard"

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