healthy boundaries

Guidelines for Healthy Boundaries

There’s plenty that could be said about setting healthy boundaries, but here are a few critical pieces to get you started.

1. Understand the purpose of the boundary
2. State and explain the purpose of the boundary and the consequence of crossing it
3. Follow through on consequence if the boundary is crossed
Understand the purpose of the boundary

You shouldn’t create a rule or a boundary for the sake of having it, there should be a purpose behind it. This purpose should be to create safety or foster an environment in which relationships can occur. If you do not know why a rule exists, it probably should not exist.

In the midst of this, consider if there’s a way for you to remove the need for the boundary. Try to make the right thing to do the easy thing to do. For example, if you have an exposed, live wire in your living room you could make a rule to not touch it. Alternatively, you could fix the actual problem so that the boundary doesn’t need to be in place.

State and explain the purpose of the boundary and the consequence for crossing it

Now that you understand why the boundary is important, explain it to your teen. If they understand your rationale, they are more likely to abide by it. Discuss with them, also what the consequences would be for crossing the line. Engage with them in the conversation about consequences, and check out our other pieces about this topic.

By laying out before them the rule and the consequences ahead of time, you’re demonstrating respect and lowering the chance of a crisis when they cross a line they didn’t know exists. If you do not explain the boundary ahead of time, you will create strain on the relationship unnecessarily.

Follow through on the consequence if the boundary is crossed

Never use threats of violence to back up your authority and never create a consequence you are unwilling or unable to execute on.

Once the boundary is established, rebellious teens will often test to see if the boundary truly exists. Instead of giving a warning when the boundary is being tested, you can ask your teen “Do you think I should follow through on the consequence, or can we call this a warning and it won’t happen again?” This question shows that the boundary does exist, that you are prepared to follow through on the consequence (as opposed to endless warnings), and possibly results in a commitment that the behaviour will stop.

The goal in all of this is healthy relationships. Learning to set meaningful boundaries in a respectful manner helps facilitate healthier conversations even if the boundary gets broken.

We hope that this content has been informative and helpful. It is our desire to help families and bring struggling teens back together. We encourage you to share this information with others who may be in need.

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