In the world of coaching, the topic of boundaries comes up frequently. The majority of my clientele are parents so I often pose the question: “Do you think this is a boundary issue?” Sometimes I’m referring to communication they’re describing between themself and their spouse and sometimes it’s between parent and child. Other times it’s among the kids. I can almost guarantee it’s going to come up at some point during the time we have together.
Why is it that so many of us have weak boundaries? Is it because many of us grew up fearing our parents so we complied without ever questioning? Is it because we’ve never learned how to protect our own personal space? Is it a reflection of the value we put on ourselves? Is it a fear of disapproval? Are we terrified of confrontation? It may be a combination of all those things.
Once we become aware that some of the problems we’re facing are due to our lack of boundaries we start learning to say “no” and communicating clearly to people who cross our boundaries, that they’ve gone too far. It’s like a muscle that has to be flexed. It takes practice and likely once we start, we’ll fall back to our old patterns but as I often tell clients “Everyday presents a new opportunity to try again”. For change to become permanent we have to move in baby steps until we develop a new normal. For awhile, it’s a forward and backwards movement. We do well for awhile and then find ourselves responding in the old way. That’s normal.
Once we learn to protect our sacred space, as some people call it, it feels great. We might experience a disappointed or disapproving response but it’s temporary. People soon get over it and start to learn they’ve gone too far. In other words, once we learn to value and respect ourselves, people in turn value and respect us back.
When we have children, everything we do as parents is teaching our children to do the same. That of course includes the way we set boundaries. Our kids have a much better chance of setting clear boundaries when they’ve witnessed their parents doing the same. They are also more likely to protect their personal space when they value who they are. When they encounter someone who is crossing the line, they know how to respectfully assert themselves. I think this is one of the greatest life skills we can teach our kids. It starts with us.