Do you know how to model healthy boundaries for your kids?
In episode 16 of The Authentic Wife Show, you’ll learn how to model for your kids what it means to love yourself
Hello you super smart human, you! I’m so excited to be here with you again today on The Authentic Wife Show. We’re gonna talk about one of my favorite topics. If you hadn’t noticed, I just want to make sure that we get this one..I almost wanna say out of the way, cuz it’s one of the most common questions that I get, and I’m so excited to have a book coming out that will help address these things for conscious parents who want to understand boundaries.
I know when I was being brought into the world of a different kind of parenting paradigm, I was confused about how do I actually hold — I know I don’t wanna punish, but what do I do instead? What are natural consequences? What are all these things? And I have a lot of information on this, on my website, on the authenticwifeandmom.com.
Differing Parenting Styles Creates Confusion About Boundaries
So you can certainly go there too, but I wanna talk about one of the most important things for boundaries today, and why it relates so much to the work I do with moms who are trying to improve their marriages because for a lot of these really brilliant moms who are learning about child development or already know, already have experience in there were teachers or some kind of educator or otherwise know what kids need as they develop, that becomes one of the major conflicts between them and their husband is that he wants to just do what he knows. And for most of us, what we know was the authoritarian parenting style where basically you do as I say, having power over the child and making them conform to your wishes and using fear to get them to comply, which does work in the short term, but it doesn’t work in the long term.
And then it dramatically backfires as the child gets older and realizes that you really don’t have control over them and will rebel or talk back or run away or whatever they need to do to feel like a human, to feel whole. Sometimes we have a blind spot, I think as moms or no, I guess speaking for myself, I did, where I could see what was appropriate for my children and I could hold my husband to it, but then I wasn’t really holding myself to it.
And so that’s a big thing that we need to pay attention to, is when are you asking of your children or asking of your husband something that you’re not even able to do yourself yet? So yeah, we have to model healthy boundaries. We have got to demonstrate, to show, to live the boundaries that we believe in, because that is what our kids will do.
It doesn’t matter what, how you punish them. It doesn’t matter how you teach them or discipline them. It doesn’t matter what you tell them to do. It doesn’t matter what, you know, different models you make up to try to help them to, to have better executive functioning and stuff. If you aren’t actually showing them, that’s not what they’re gonna do, that’s not we’re what they’re gonna pick up. They’re just gonna become who you are. And so that’s why I feel like for me, especially like the pressure was on to get my life in order, and to figure this stuff out and to develop boundaries, because if I didn’t do it, then I knew that they wouldn’t do it either.
The Essential Limits/Boundaries
So I’m gonna go back a little bit and just cover the essential limits. I think people also get confused about like, what rules do we wanna have? What is boundary? What do we hold? And so I always go back to the question of, does it show them how to love themselves? And the, question is what would I do if I loved myself? I think we talked about that another time.
So in our house, we have these four essential respects. I learned these from Dr. Shefali Tsabary, and honestly, after doing all my own work and everything, these still hold true. These are just really the basic things that we need to do to love ourselves.
#1: Respect For Mind
So number one is respect for mind. At least like they can go in any order, but the first one I’m going to cover, because I personally really like this one is respect for mind. That means that we make time to learn, to use our big, beautiful brains, to get the minimum amount of knowledge required to take our gifts out to the world, which is what our kids are doing, to expand and grow our knowledge so that we aren’t, you know, willfully ignorant, to be curious, school has to be one of those things. School or learning essentially has to be one of those things that we prioritize and we make it a limit that we hold for our children. Part of loving yourself, is having the ability to follow your interests, to have again, the basic level of knowledge needed to continue to learn, and especially to continue to put your gifts out into the world.
So we have to prioritize that. That’s gonna be one of those limits that you do have to hold. The key with holding these limits though, is that they don’t have to be held a certain way. They don’t have to be done a certain way. Like I say, with, sleep, like I don’t care where you sleep, you just have to sleep, and school can be another one of those things where maybe a traditional school doesn’t work for your child.
So you explore another alternative. Maybe homeschooling doesn’t work for your child, maybe you don’t like how you have to be a teacher with them, and you just wanna be mom with them. So maybe you look for something else that works for them. The goal is that they do have respect for their mind and know that part of loving themselves is nurturing it and allowing it to grow.
#2: Respect For Self
The next one is respect for self. This obviously is all the things related to ourselves, to our body. Knowing our worth, knowing how we will be spoken to, knowing how to like do personal hygiene, respect for how we share our bodies with others. For kids, the limits for holding are like brushing your teeth, getting enough sleep, washing yourself, all these basic self-care things that are so important that we have to do if we love ourselves.
Also, getting medical care when we need it and recognizing when we’re ill or sick and need to go get some additional help or take vitamins, if that’s needed or warranted, we have a responsibility to show them how to love their bodies and their overall wellbeing, which is what I talk about a ton. So that’s an important one.
#3: Respect For Our Things
And then respect for our things. So if you own it, you gotta take care of it. You gotta take care of, you know, pick up after yourself. Carry things back into the kitchen, put ’em in the dishwasher, whatever it is, pick up your floor, hang up your clothes.
Like if you love yourself, these things that you have acquired are an extension of you. So how do you love them? And the problem in my house is that we have acquired way too many things. We — and that’s a whole nother thing that my husband and I are in our personal growth about. But now that we have so many things and it’s so overwhelming to take care of them, how do we do it?
What are the systems that we need to be able to do it? And because he has ADHD and I have traits of ADHD, and probably most of America does, because of the way it comes from a traumatic sort of childhood, or at least a not necessarily traumatic childhood, but having parents who were not self-regulated, all of us I think are struggling with executive function. And plus we have things now that are just, kind of molding our minds to not have a capacity to be present. Obviously, we have screens, we have 30 second videos, one-minute videos. We have things that come at us quickly. We move on and, buying things is, obviously an easy way to cope, but another way to experience the pleasure of our senses and to enjoy things.
So when we have too many things, They become hard to take care of. And so for our kids, if they’re really struggling with taking care of their things, we have to get down and say, okay, like how much can you reasonably take care of? How much can you reasonably manage? What do we need to put away? What do we need to give away or donate?
So just be aware, like this is the area where I don’t have much room to say things to my kids because neither I nor my husband are really modeling this limit. We are not good at cleaning up after ourselves, right after the fact for various reasons. And part of it is accepting that, you know, in some ways we are just wired differently and, we have different senses of how we get things done.
We have time urgency. and we have to accept that, you know, our kids are gonna have some of that too through genetics and through just being our children and the most important thing is to be in a place of love around them. And so to not be on them all the time, because they’re gonna get the message that they’re not good enough.
So again, it comes back to modeling. If they see me clean up, you know, pick up my room or pick up my things, then they are more likely to want to do that for themselves.
#4: Respect for Others/Community
And then finally the very last one, which is a struggle in our house at the moment, is respect for others and the community. This is… my daughter is eight years old and just came home sobbing last night about how girls on the bus were treating her.
And, you know, I asked some people on Facebook and they’re like, oh yeah, that’s, that’s the norm of this age. And it’s like, good grief. This should not be the norm at this age. It’s just really, Ugh. That could be a whole ‘nother show. So obviously being able to respect others and to also move away from others who are not respectful to you when you need to, and this is definitely something that we need to hold, that we care for others.
And like, we care about the people in our home, especially. And, we have to, you know, just respect them, especially in the family. It comes to respecting their opinions, their thoughts, and their emotions, that all those things are okay. So that leads me to the next part and why this is so related to the work that we do to improve our marriages.
Calling Out Unconscious Behavior Is Necessary For Healthy Boundary Development
Modeling healthy boundaries also means that you call out unconscious behavior wherever you see it, including your husband’s. So, one of the biggest objections that I get from wives when we start doing this is, oh, I can’t do. I, I cannot disrespect him in front of the kids. A client recently said it would be world war three.
And she just was very much unwilling to even imagine that for a moment. And then I’ve had clients who culturally won’t, saying oh, disrespecting the parent in front of the kids — it’s no, no, I cannot do that. But here’s the thing. And here’s the question I had for this client the other day. Why is it okay for your husband to disrespect your children?
Because if you feel into your core, if you go into your mama bear heart, as I told her, there is an anger, or even a fear that will rise in you, the moment your husband is disrespectful to your children. And that’s, naturally there, go out in nature and look at mamas, they protect their young. Our inclination, our drive is always to protect our children from harm and unconscious behavior.
Meaning he’s not even aware of what he’s doing. He has not shined the light of consciousness onto this behavior. He’s doing what he was shown. He’s acting out of his ego place. He’s acting out of fear. He’s literally unconscious.
I will actually say to my kids, “Your dad does not know what he’s doing right now.” And that can be very triggering, but that’s the truth. And my kids need to hear from me that that is unconscious behavior in order for them to have strong boundaries. We cannot pretend that unconscious behavior is ever okay.
Don’t Gaslight Your Kids
We cannot pretend that boundary-violating behavior is okay and then expect them to have healthy boundaries. If they are gas lit at home and lied to at home, and we all pretend that what daddy just said, or mommy just said or did is okay, then the child is confused. They do not have a clear sense of what their boundary is and what they’re allowed to protect.
So we cannot have that. We have to be willing to call out unconscious behavior wherever we see it. I would want my husband to call it out if I did it. And he gets called out by me when he does it and I don’t do it, I try very hard to never do it in a way that’s shaming. Most of the time, I will talk directly to my kids and just say, oh, this is not okay. This doesn’t work.
And if it’s bad, like if he’s really doing something that’s super unconscious, like shaming them, or I don’t know, he doesn’t really do anything. But if he were to like yell at them or something, I would move my kids away from that behavior. Children are humans, whole worthy beings who deserve respect as much as anybody else.
And the only way that they’re going to respect themselves is if the, especially the two people who are meant to love them more than anything else in the world. If, if we don’t show them their worth, if we don’t respect them and honor them as whole human beings that we have the honor of raising, that we have the honor of caring for as they develop into adults who are able to be independent, they are gonna go out into that world and be confused and let everybody treat them like crap. They are going to become wives who are abused by their husbands. They’re going to become husbands who have terrible relationships with bosses or friends. They’re gonna be people who have a low sense of self-confidence, of self-worth.
They are gonna have zero relationships with healthy boundaries. So part of modeling healthy boundaries for our kids is calling out unconscious behavior whenever we see it, even if it comes, especially if it comes from mom or dad. And we have to find the courage to do that, to know that the alternative is so unacceptable to us, our kids feeling unsafe and unworthy and disrespected and unloved and confused in our house is so unacceptable to us that we are willing to, quote-unquote, “hurt feelings,” which we can’t even do. If his feelings are hurt, that is his growth path. If he’s uncomfortable with it, that is his growth path. And by the way, he needs to be shown that that behavior is unconscious as well.
Because what probably happened was an adult, a parent did that to him when he was a kid, and some part of him was so hurt by it. But now it’s become this thing that he’s projecting, putting that pain onto his own kids. Showing him that that behavior is not okay is another way that he’s allowed, able, given the space to heal.
So it’s absolutely imperative that we do it. I hope that you will come join us in our Soul Sages Facebook group, where you can learn more I’m in there every week. I do a video lesson usually on Tuesday afternoon. And you can also go to the authentic wife and mom.com and take my Getting The Love You Deserve course, and that will teach you the six most common mistakes people make when trying to hold boundaries and give you a good introduction to it. And stay tuned for my book on this topic, because I do talk about it a lot.
If you have any questions or ideas for a show, be sure to send them to firstname.lastname@example.org