Healthy Boundaries Healthy Kids

When I was a child I would dream of eating a whole box of chocolates all by myself! I wished my parents weren’t so strict with the ‘no sweets’ boundaries. Today, I am really grateful as I have a mouth full of even teeth with no dental problems. Coming home at 10 p.m. was another pain to endure but they were for our own safety, although at the time we certainly did not see it that way! Some of these boundaries were set with our best interests at heart, good old fashioned intentions that were bent at times as they gave in to us on the odd occasion, much to our delight.

Have you set boundaries for your children? If so, what are they and do they know them? Are you confusing them by changing these to suit yourself or the child? What are boundaries anyway?

Here are some common boundaries:

  • setting bedtime on school days and holidays
  • having friends over for sleep-overs
  • going to spend a day or night with friends
  • knocking on a bedroom door before you barge in (child or parent)
  • television time and programs that are allowed
  • how the remote is used
  • name calling
  • physically hurting another
  • disrespecting another’s race or religion, or opinion
  • hygiene habits
  • computer time
  • volume of music
  • getting home on time
  • fast food
  • pocket money, etc just to name a few.

Healthy boundaries are vital for children or like the kids in the movie "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’ kids will explode with no self-control and will grow up lacking respect for themselves and their world around them. Life would be chaotic. Boundaries provide a loving relationship with your child in the way of a framework with guidelines. Most of all, it keeps them safe. It tells children that there are limits to everything we do:

  • "No you can’t eat a tub of ice-cream but you can have a bowl after dinner"
  • "No you can’t spend the night at Tim’s house because it’s a weeknight"
  • "Yes you can go to the movies on Saturday provided your back home by 4 p.m."

Kids with no boundaries will have social problems, issues at school and relationships, just for starters!  Once you set your boundaries according to your own set of values, it’s now up to you to ensure they are kept.  No point having them and then reneging when the child says "Oh please, please can I"?  To which you reply "Yes okay"!!

Perhaps you cannot be bothered or don’t have the time to discuss why the child cannot have it and it feels a whole lot easier to give in. Or you may be using a passive style of parenting which sees the child win again and again. When the child wins, healthy boundaries begin to unravel. We can be flexible at times but we cannot keep changing them or you will confuse the child.  "I’ll say yes to you coming home after 4 p.m. provided Jane’s mum drops you back home no later than 6 p.m.", here you have set a boundary with a change.

What happens then if a boundary is wilfully broken? Should there be a consequence? The answer to that is a big YES!!  Boundary setting cannot be successful if there are no consequences for crossing a boundary. If you don’t have consequences, the boundary will not be respected, nor will you be, as a parent. It becomes meaningless and your child will begin to mistrust you and your judgment. The idea is to make the consequence related to the boundary that has been broken.

For example after agreeing with your child that 8 p.m. is bedtime, your child refuses to go to bed, then explain to your child that if this type of behvaiour continues his bedtime will be moved to 7.30 p.m. The consequence cannot be "to read 3 books" because it is not related to not going to bed on time. (Also see alternatives to punishment on my blog for ideas).  Enforce the consequence without being mean or nasty about it.

Do your children know about your boundaries? Well, with little children you cannot sit and read out your book of boundaries! Boundaries are learned within the family through discussion and talking. Kids get to understand your likes and dislikes "Brian When you ride your bike on the street without a helmet, I am afraid that you may have an accident, could you please use your helmet every time whilst riding".

Children will push to break boundaries if they really want something you may not approve of "Can’t I ride on the motorcycle with Kevin’s dad please ". At which time you will need to remind your child of what is allowed and what isn’t.

Can boundaries change? Yes they must be reviewed. They are dynamic and organically change as the child grows older and more independent. You cannot march a teenager off to bed at 7 p.m. or refuse to increase pocket money as they show more responsibility and transit into another age group with a different set of needs.

Children need reminders to help them keep boundaries so that harmony flows within the home:

  • "Jenny don’t forget to finish your laundry before the weekend as your camping remember"?
  • "Robert you need to be home by 3 p.m. as we are having guests for dinner on Saturday and I really need your help".

For morning routines I made it easy for my boys by preparing pictorials and a reminder board for the older ones. I had a sequence of the morning routine on little picture cards (clean teeth, wash face, make bed etc) and each picture was attached with velcro behind the card onto an A4 color cardboard. Once they did the task they would remove the picture and place it in a small box. It helped me nag less! It kept them amused with their new found independence to meet boundaries! Once met, I created another pictorial for evening routines.

Setting boundaries are easy, keeping track and reviewing them calls parents to be mindful and aware and discuss changes with the kids:

  • "I’m increasing your pocket money as I think you both deserve it"
  • "You can stay up for another hour as it’s a long weekend this week"

Use your imagination, skills and gentleness with boundaries. Be real and be honest. Listen and understand your children who will tell you about their changing needs. Last but not least set out with reasonable and democratic boundaries that nurture independence, growth, and value development with rich bonds of love and respect for one another. Here’s to healthy boundaries, love and harmony!


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thanks for your elaboration

Hi Skippy,

Didn’t expect you to take your precious time to explain to me how to make those pictorial board. Really appreciate your thoughtfullness 


Pictorial board

Hi AnalectsReader
I had a book from the US for teaching people with disabilities. That’s where I got the idea from. You can photocopy the pages of different tasks made easy for people who cannot read. So for teeth cleaning it just had a tooth brush and a tube of tooth paste which was the cue. Kids pick this up really well. Once I got all the pictures I need, I laminated it, then cut them into squares, attached the velcro and away you go. I still have the book but it’s not with you so sorry I cannot give you the name of it. Anyway, you can create your own pics easily or use junk mail from your mail box!
Glad you will take something from the article and use it. All the best!

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thanks for sharing the great ideas


Thanks a lot for the great article. I personally think this is a great idea:

"For morning routines I made it easy for my boys by preparing pictorials and a reminder board for the older ones. I had a sequence of the morning routine on little picture cards (clean teeth, wash face, make bed etc) and each picture was attached with velcro behind the card onto an A4 color cardboard. Once they did the task they would remove the picture and place it in a small box. It helped me nag less! "

Yeah! I hate nagging. In fact i’m such a person of few words, I could actually flare up when I am made to nag too much. thanks again. 

Consequences vs Punishment

Thanks amylqf and to the parents who gave Kudos!

I am concerned that some parents reading this article are confusing ‘consequences with punishment’. There is nothing in my article on boundaries to suggest this and Skippy has also directed parents to review the article written on blog called “Alternatives to Punishment” –

Perhaps this calls for another article on the difference between boundary setting and punishment?

As you are aware I do not advocate punishment or bullying kids into doing something in the way of punishment or bribes. I am passionate about democratic parenting which does not include any physical or verbal abuse onto children.

Thanks for your positive and helpful responses! To share with all of you, is very much my pleasure.


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Thanks for great tips.

Thanks for great tips.

Love coupons!

Singapore is famous for give-aways ! What a way to go ! Thanks Qtownmum !
I’m just hearing a conversation at your home with your kids “you take the dinner coupon and I’ll have the ice-cream” LOL


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Great Tips

Great tips!

I think reasonable boundaries is the key to success. Rewarding the kids when they remember the boundaries is also important.

We hand out "love coupons" to our boys to endorse good "automatic" behaviours. These coupons are hand-written with treats ranging from simple hugs, to movies at home, to ice-cream treats, to big dinners…..etc. My boys handle them preciously and sometimes even exchange amongst themselves. It has worked well so far.

Thank you for sharing

Thank you for taking the time to share.  I am pretty strict with my 3 yo.  I came from a family of 3 kids and my mom is a disciplinarian.  She don’t cane us or hit us, she sets the boundaries and taught us from young that there are consequences.  I am following her lead as we grew up with lots of rules and had to take up responsibilities of cleaning and household chores.  But its not all work and no play, cos weekend we dont hv to do any chores, its fun and play time. 

I hv been told by some friends that I m too strict with my yound child, but I think that they are too lenient with theirs.  I believe that good habits start from young, now I am further assured that I m on the right path.

Thanks for Kudos

Thanks Foreverj, Poohbear, Mincy, Zach and RRMummy & CK for Kudos – glad you liked the article.

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Healthy Boundaries, Healthy kids

What a great start! Thanks

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great article, skippy!

great article, skippy! mostly i wil tell my dd pls do not do this [thing] for this reason. eg. i wil remind my dd to stop eating once she’s full rather than tell her she can only eat a fixed amount of food. the reason is that i want her to be able to stop appropriately even when i m not with her. that way, she can develop healthy eating habits for life.

i m not that strict with bedtime cos sometimes i recognise that if she’s not sleepy, its no use forcing her to sleep. it wil only keep her more awake. so i wil try reading more books in the meantime. that way, we can spend quality time together in a meaningful way đŸ™‚

Hi Skippy Thanks for

Hi Skippy

Thanks for sharing.
Just to share some more boundaries..
Reading at least 3 short stories everynight to arouse his reading interest and habits.
Always wash hands for hygience purposes. (esp before and after food)

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