encouragement i let go of sad stuff A lot of parents worry about how their child will cope when they are not present or if in deed, they will be safe. When your child is empowered by learning to set boundaries, you can be sure that they will be. It also helps if you can show them that you trust and believe in them to do the right thing.

A recent conversation with my 3 year old Niece who is at pre-school sparked off some very valuable coaching activities around setting boundaries. Have a listen and see what you think:

Mia: I help sad children at school like you Auntie Lisa
Me: Wow! You are so smart. How do you do that?
Mia: *smiles at me and clasps her hands together*
Me: Do you hug them when they are sad?
Mia: No Auntie Lisa, we don’t touch people at school
Me: Oh Ok, I see. What do you do then?
Mia: We just sit with them while they are sad and that helps
Me: That’s brilliant, so you just sit and be with them until the sadness goes?
Mia: Yes! *nods head vigorously* ; it really helps.


 I’m delighted that my Niece is learning about personal space (physical boundaries) and how not to rescue people from their feelings (emotional boundaries). People need to have and own their feelings in order to move past them. Sometimes, there isn’t anything for us to do. It’s just about being there. Show don’t tell. Listen don’t talk. Smile and lean forward. Encourage. What do you do when your child is sad?
I have to confess as a boundary beginner, I touched my friend’s pregnant tummy without asking and had absolutely no idea that  it wasn’t appropriate *cringe*. I can still now catch myself wanting to fix client’s problems instead of letting them come to their own conclusions. It feels a lot lighter only having to worry about my own stuff. I’m their cheerleader. I whoop them on from the sidelines and show them their greatness. I don’t have to do it all for them. You don’t have to do it for anybody else either.

Without boundaries children cannot step into their full power

Boundaries are something I’ve been working on for a while now. I was brought up to believe that boundaries hurt other people instead of realising that boundaries are necessary to protect me. (You can read about how I discovered this on a self development workshop with horses.) I often see in coaching how boundaries are not role modelled in families which makes it harder for children to keep themselves safe or feel empowered to stand up for themselves. Imagine walking around with nothing to protect you. You are wide open to bullying, criticism, taking care of other people’s feelings and not being able to say no. Children without boundaries are very needy of adults to be there. They want you to do it for them or to step in and take charge.

I’ve noticed that obedient children don’t follow what is right for them, they are waiting to be told. They are excellent at listening and following instructions from their strict parent (otherwise they will be in big trouble) but really they have no idea how to think for themselves or tune into their own feelings. This is why I don’t think authoritarian parenting works.

Are you respecting your child’s boundaries? This is the best way to to teach them.

cute little girl and wooden fence portraitIn the coaching room I’ve been working with children on setting boundaries using the imagery of a fenced garden. One little girl wanted it to be a walled garden but we talked about how people wouldn’t be able to see the beauty of her garden. The garden represents our personal space. It is all around us and is fenced off. It determines where we end and another person begins. There is a gate in the fence because our boundaries are flexible. We get to decide who comes in and who doesn’t. We can change our mind too.

Having a fence around our garden which we are in control of means we feel safe and protected. Whatever happens to us we know we can look after ourselves (even if there isn’t a grown up around). As we draw out our garden we think about:

  • what our garden looks like – flowers, animals, birds and fun adventures
  • when we want to shut the gate to have time to ourselves – it’s ok to have time to ourselves or not want to do something everybody else is doing
  • who is allowed in – people who are kind, respectful and trustworthy
  • who do we want to wave at as they stroll past the gate – we want to be polite and say hello but it doesn’t mean this person is going to be a regular visitor to our garden
  • what behaviour is allowed in our garden – keep out meanies, angry shouty people or strangers we don’t know
  • what are the rules if you are playing in the garden – no dumping of rubbish, fibbing, being bossy or hurting

It makes for a very fun and interesting discussion as to what is and isn’t acceptable to your child. It is also great for looking at different types of friendships and what they bring to your garden:

  • Do you have a friend who drops by whilst walking her dog who poos on your lawn and then leaves without clearing it up?
  • Do you have a friend that keeps trying to get into your garden even when you have shut the gate?
  • What about the friend who gets upset when you don’t invite them into your garden because you want to sunbathe alone?
  • Or even the ‘helpful’ Mother-in-Law who pops in to mow your lawn while you’re out shopping?


Have you heard of the Poo Burger Technique?

Then we get onto how we can tell somebody to leave or what to say when we don’t want to let them in. We talk about how difficult it is to say no and also how difficult it is for us to hear it. Which brings me on to the next technique: The Poo Burger! For those of you who have been on a corporate training course to learn the Sh1t Sandwich for giving constructive criticism. Well, here is a Smiley version:

poo burgerTop layer of bun: Kindness: “You are my friend and I love spending time with you.”

Poo Burger Filling: The Boundary: “But I cannot play with you today.” (we don’t have to justify when we set a boundary)

Bottom layer of bun: More Kindness: “I hope you understand and maybe we can play together another time.”

Children love this because it makes them laugh. We have so much fun with it and laughter changes the energy from being a potentially scary and unpredictable situation into something much lighter. It also means they can say no without being mean whilst staying with their power. They understand that they have rights too and it’s Ok to assert those rights. They will grow up being able to ask for what they want and get their needs met.

I want children to know, that if anybody makes them feel uncomfortable, they can leave. I want them to know that anybody who does not respect our boundaries and crosses them, are showing they cannot be trusted. This changes your relationship with them. They have their own agenda. I want children to know that good friends who love them will not trample on their boundaries or treat them disrespectfully.

The reason most people don’t set boundaries is because they fear losing a friend or maybe even somebody’s love. When in fact, you never lose anybody by setting a boundary. You have already lost them. The relationship is not a healthy one if you are not being respected, heard or treated with kindness.

Smiley’s Friendship Know How Workshops shows how we can use body language as well as words to set boundaries. Some people don’t listen to what we say, but we can show them with our actions that their behaviour is not acceptable.

How good are you at setting boundaries?

If you want to learn more about boundaries and why they are essential, you might want to check out my new online learning pack: No More Power Struggles. Click on the picture below to find out more.

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