Setting Boundaries in Parenting

What are Boundaries?

Boundary Basics

Boundaries are essentially our introduction to Social Norms and other the basic agreements that we as humans, in different cultures, have decided to abide by.

Early experiences with boundaries shape how we deal with them as we develop.

Helping them learn Healthy Compliance is the goal. However, when boundaries aren’t implemented in a health manner, a child may develop an unhealthy relationship with boundaries.

–   Blind Resistance with boundaries

–   Blind Compliance with Boundaries

–   Avoidance of Boundaries

Understanding Boundaries

Boundary violations can be very simple or complex. They can also vary in Severity.

  • Violation of a Family boundary vs Breaking the Law

If kids don’t learn how to manage boundaries early in the home setting, their ability to properly navigate them decreases as they progress into adulthood.

  • Schools introduces us to several examples boundaries and rules (i.e waiting in line, raising your hand, not talking in class)
  • This is one of our first introductions to rules and boundaries outside of our home.

The Egocentric, aka “me me me”  stage that children go through is a natural part of development, that we should eventually progress past.

Parenting, Boundary Setting, Parenting Skills

Kids are very pleasure driven which makes boundaries tricky for them

  • No essential means “no pleasure” to a kid during this stage

Kid’s demonstrate resistance because they don’t understand the point or how the boundary applies to them.

  • This is why conversations and answering questions is so important.

Kids who don’t effectively learn how to cope and comply with boundaries continue to struggle into adolescence and later adulthood.

Frustration Tolerance

“Riding the struggle bus makes you strong”

What is Frustration Tolerance

Frustration Tolerance is exactly what it sounds like. The ability to deal with frustration during challenging events we experience in our day to day lives.

At the end of the day, how you handle your frustration has the greatest effect on your success.

Frustration and Development

Frustration Tolerance can be linked to several concepts in Developmental Psychology.

  • Delayed Gratification, Optimism, Independence, Creativity etc.

That’s why it’s important to integrate and consider Frustration Tolerance Development  into your parenting, coaching, or teaching.

Your kid will get better and more authentic outcomes and results.

Benefits Of Developing Frustration Tolerance

Learning to tolerate frustration and delay gratification has been referenced in several studies in Developmental Psychology.

  • Children who can tolerate frustration and delay gratification generally make better decisions and live more successful lives.

The inability to manage frustration and delay gratification can play a factor in several issues developing.

  • Delay in developing appropriate coping skills
  • Excessive fear of failure
  • Impulsive decision making

Parenting, Boundary Setting, Parenting Skills

When kids aren’t forced to learn to cope and tolerate life in general, they look for “external means” or “outside solutions” of regulating what they don’t know how.

  • Usually in the form of other people or Addictive Substances

Growing From Frustration

The Path of Resistance is where we develop our “Grit.”

  • However, with kids being so pleasure driven, they are far more likely to take the other path and that’s where parenting comes in.

Saying “No” and reframing from rescuing your kid from their mistakes and unwanted emotions, actually saves them in the long run.

The stakes are lower in early childhood and Adolescences versus Adulthood.

  • Being broke for a few months to pay off your credit card you didn’t manage properly VS financial ruin and bankruptcy in adulthood.

You haven’t “Adulted” until you have truly accepted that corner cutting, shortcuts, and working outside of the boundaries of integrity, isn’t worth it.

Parenting, Boundary Setting, Parenting Skills

Empathy and Frustration

Frustration is one of our early teachers of Empathy

You’re far more likely to demonstrate empathy and connect with people if you can relate your experiences to theirs.

  • This is why different forms of privilege can limit your empathy and insight into other people’s experiences.

Aside from just being a bully, when someone doesn’t have a good sense of empathy it decreases their “investment” or “buy in” with the community.

  • Lack of socialization
  • Isolation
  • Low self-esteem

Isolation, in its extremes, is not good for people. Some of the most notorious criminals we study are often social outcast. Failures to connect, socialize, and belong can really delay someone’s overall progress. Kids with empathy are more successful in relationships.

Social Skills, Empathy, Parenting

Under-developed empathy can result in a very problematic personality.

  • Potentially abusive to others depending on how severe this deficit is.
  • Self-Centered or Self- Serving Behaviors/Manipulation
  • Difficulty being successful in the workplace
  • Social Anxiety/Avoidance


However, excessive boundaries can be just as damaging for the development of a child.

When there are excessive boundaries and control in place, a kid is more likely to experience Learned Helplessness or under developed Critical Thinking Skills.

When a person grows up with excessive boundaries in place, they often try and replicate this dynamic in romantic relationships and/or friendships.

Possible outcomes of Excessive Boundaries

  • Delays in Identity Development
  • Under Developed Self-Reliance
  • Over Dependence on Structure
  • Difficulty dealing with Uncertainty 

It’s really hard being that Freshman in College who has no idea how to do… ANYTHING. So everyone pitches in to help them out but secretly wonders “how are you like this?!”

judging you gif

It Helps to Hope

The Agency of Hope

A person’s Agency of Hope can best be described as a Cognitive Function someone has developed through successfully problem solving.

It can only be developed after successfully coping with frustration

Having a developed Agency of Hope is one of the single most important tools for someone to have in their bag of tricks.

  • This concept is similar to Self-Efficacy and Optimism, but no the same because it is a Cognitive Function, not a feeling or general sense (Kaufman, 2011).

One study found that being hopeful and “thinking out of the box” aka Divergent Thinking, was related to success, creativity, and great problem solving skills (Liz Day, 2010)

  • Not unlike Critical Thinking Skills

Building The Agency of Hope

In short, you can just make one up. It’s built over time through your experiences.

When parents rescue their children from those hard moments, they are robbing them of the opportunity to learn how it feels to successfully “handle something.”

fist pump gif

Kaufman also referenced encouraging Learning Goals Vs Mastery Goals.

  • Prioritizing development and the experience rather than Perfection!

Authentic and Whole Hearted Effort is more valuable that any level of perfection

Kids and teens have to fall on their faces, to realize “oh, I’m not dying. I guess I’ll be okay.”

Encourage your kid to take chances and to be okay with failure.

Encourage sticking things out, trying new things, and to be Uncomfortable.

Don’t Set Them Up To Fail

If you start this process a little later in your kid’s life, be reasonable and empathetic.

  • New structure, expectations, rules, and frustration can be a shock to a kid’s system.

Progress is key and Empathy is an absolute must.

  • Your kid didn’t get here on their own
  • They’ll need reassurance and support navigating a new system.

Wrap Up

Developing Frustration Tolerance and Building a sturdy Agency of Hope are both processes that should not be skipped or rushed.

It’s best to start em young, build a strong foundation to save yourself bail money, tears, stress related wrinkles, and time down the road.

We have to struggle to be successful, you can’t have true confidence without failure and struggle.

Match Point Counseling Boundary Setting Chart

If you like the information you seen here, click here and take the full course.

The course includes video lectures, quizzes, and worksheets to complete to help with comprehension and planning.

The course will also review guidelines on how to put healthy boundaries in place.

Go view all of the courses available by clicking MPC Academy

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Works Cited  

Kaufman, S. B. (December 26th 2011). The Will and Ways Of Hope. Beautiful Minds, page. 2011.

Liz Day, K. H. (2010). Hope uniquely predicts objective academic achievement above intelligence,.  Journal of Research in Personality, 550-553.

Author: Patrick Henderson LPC

I'm a licensed counselor working to try and stay sane while creating more resources and awareness for mental health services. I love my job so much, but I need a change of pace. I want to continue creating resources but why not have a bit of fun while I'm at it right? Come check out my blog where you can have access to a ton of rambling from me that should be definitely be educational and hopefully humorous as well. Come check out my "Pro Bono Adventures" and ways to help support mental health!