Empowering Children & Youth

Young people need to know that it is OK to say no. We need to point out that guilt trips, flattery, and threats are unhealthy manipulation tactics. We want children to recognize when a demand or request crosses their personal boundary. Talk to them about what that feels like. And then empower the child to defend those boundaries.

Posted by Karen Young

We hear the word ‘boundary’ a lot but what is it actually? A boundary is the line between what is me and what is not me; between what they think and what I think. With a strong boundary, there’s an acceptance that just because they think it/ feel it/ say it/ do it/ doesn’t mean I have to as well.

It can be hard to know how to teach children and young adults about boundaries. Often parents do not realize the importance of teaching their children the specifics about healthy and unhealthy relationships. The slide show below is a resource that parents and teachers can use in order to make the teaching experience less daunting.

The Importance of Boundaries In Healthy Relationships

Niki Kriese and her husband Mat started doing this early on with their two sons, Simon (4) and Felix (6). Niki says her family often relies on examples from books, movies, or TV to help get a conversation going. “The other night Mat was reading an old Berenstein Bears book to the kids,” she says. In the book, the bear family was trying to decide how to spend the day together.

Halfway through, Mat stopped and asked the kids, “Hey, has the mother said one word so far?” The boys agreed that she hadn’t. When they’d finished reading, he noted that at no point in the story had anyone asked the mother bear what she’d like to do, or if she was having fun.

“Do you think your mom would like that?” he queried Simon and Felix.

The boys shook their heads.

“Would you?” Again, the answer was no.

The object, Niki explains, isn’t necessarily to start a deep discussion, but rather to help her sons develop curiosity about how others are thinking and feeling. “Obviously they’re not processing it in the same way we do,” she says, “but the hope is that we’re setting them up to think critically and empathetically as they get older.”