Boundaries Kids Can Work With
Setting Empathic Boundaries With Kids
What is so hard, I think with empathic limits is, you know, by the time you get to the empathic limit module in the program, you've heard me rant for, you know, hours about connection, connection, connection, prioritize connection, prioritize connection. And so I think the fear or what a lot of us get wrong, as we go, 'Oh, I'm supposed to let them do whatever, because I'm supposed to prioritize connection.' And that's normal. You're doing it right, you're not doing it wrong, that that's what it feels like. So it's a fine line knife's edge fence. This work of setting empathic limits, and in my limits, I'm communicating to you that you are enough. And you are lovable. And you are okay, just as you are, but also maintaining boundaries and limits around what's okay and what's not okay.

My favorite diagram for boundaries is what I call the boundaries box. And it's basically --- there's the boundaries box, which is four different doors that enter into the box. So there's one, which is the hallway, right at the top. There's no boundary, you just come and go as you please. You just do what you want, you're 10 and you want to eat the whole pantry full of cookies and ice cream, and you just do what you want. No boundaries. Okay. Then the second is a chain link fence, which you can see the dots. So chain link fences, we can see each other. There's some, you know, fluidity. But there's still something but it's not fully blocked. Then the bottom is like a brick wall. There is no discussion, we don't even talk about it. That's like a strange moment. You know, we have no relationship. You want to talk about going out and drinking on the weekend? Nope, no discussion, you are too young, you cannot have a boyfriend. That's just fact. Right? That's that kind of boundary. But then the ideal is having a door with a handle on the inside, rather than on the outside, right? Because if it's on the outside, then that means the other person can just open and come in. And, and I decide when we're, you know, we're going to talk about race and religion, and I'm opening that door, and we're going to talk about it and they have maybe no boundaries around things that you feel comfortable, don't feel comfortable talking about. Right? And then you have me on the inside. Okay.

So the boundaries box is sort of what I think is the four most common kind of boundaries that we have, and that we experience. So for example, with some people in my life, like say, family, you can often have the walkway, the hallway where there are no boundaries, and parents think that they have free rein over asking you whatever or telling you you look fat, or you shouldn't wear that or 'how much do you earn?' You know, they have no boundaries at all. Then you have to upgrade from that, which is the chain link - there's a little bit of boundaries, but still not great. Brick wall, we just do not speak, we don't talk about it, it's completely shut off. And then the ideal is the door. Okay.

So ideally, with our kids, what we want to be having is the door kind of boundary where we can discuss it, right? It's not a brick wall, where we have no discussion around things. And that I think is the key to permissive parenting versus controlling parenting is the middle ground where like the sweet spot where we want to be, is connected conversation. Where we're talking about constantly, what's working and what's not. You can't do that if you do the hard fast Iron Fist rule of brick wall of 'Nope. This is what I say. And I'm your father. And this is what I say goes you know I'm taking the door off your room.' That is brick wall and just doesn't work, doesn't work. Then chain link - better, I'll take chain link over walkway or brick wall. And it's often, as we're learning how to do this stuff, it often starts there: that you kind of have the walkway, you graduate up to chain link. You might swing a bit too far and do brick wall and then you swing back to the door and that's kind of the sweet spot. You want to model this stuff for them. Where else are they going to learn how to communicate what they want and what they need?



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