Setting boundaries with your children is rarely something you plan in advance. One minute, your kid was on the swings at the playground. The next, he’s hopped onto a fence and is teetering over a rocky creek. In the moment, your reaction is swift: “Liam, get down from the fence now.” Then, “OK, 3-2-1.” Finally, “GET DOWN NOW!”
But it doesn’t work.
Dr. Becky Kennedy, psychologist and authorof Good Inside: A Guide to Becoming the Parent You Want to Be, says that’s because the words as we’re saying them—even in a firm tone—aren’t actually a boundary, they’re a request.
As she says in a recent Instagram post, “Too often I have parents coming to me and saying, ‘My kids don’t listen!’ But then I hear what they describe as a boundary: ‘We don’t talk to people that way,’ or ‘Get off the couch.’ These are requests. A boundary is something you tell a kid you will do and it requires a kid to do nothing.”