Protecting Your Kids' Boundaries Like Your Own

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I’ve been waiting for the other shoe to drop since we brought baby Lyla home to join her brother, making us a family of four. We took all the commonly advised steps to get Bodie comfortable - reading and talking about what was to come, giving him the choice to go to the hospital, presents from Lyla when he got there, extra attention from both, Dan and I, once we were home, referencing Lyla always as his baby sister and on and on. But most importantly to me, I’ve wanted to give Bodie a lot of room to grow into his relationship with her so there was no asking him to love her right away.

He started with ambivalence and shyness, by the second week there was more curiosity and after that came tentative affection and by week six or so, he was coming up with little games with her and asking for her in the mornings. It was all too good so I mentally prepared for a delayed reaction in a few months once she starts moving around, cooing and reaching for his toys.

Now, for the shoe dropping. Slowly but surely I started to observe an uptick in my sweet boy’s reactions to people (usually younger or smaller people) in his space. Never at school but always at our home or in our playroom in the building, when a young toddler who isn’t as aware of personal space and turn-taking gets near, Bodie’s guard goes up and sometimes a strong hand goes out to protect his area.

It’s taken two weeks of watching and starting to stress and then, in turn, hovering over him to pre-empt any strikes, to realize that my little man is working through the immense emotions of having your boundaries crossed.

I understand boundaries. I’ve had to create them for myself in select situations, and I also know that when they feel invaded on in one context, I can feel overwhelmed in every setting and I can often act out in the spaces and with the people, I feel most comfortable. My tolerance for nonsense drops because the core issue is just overeating energy.

And so as a grown up, I’m always working on protecting myself because I realize that no one, not my parents, not my husband, can do that for me. However, for Bodie, who doesn’t have the option to exit a room on his own or avoid a gathering, he is thrust into situation over situation that adds to the overwhelming nature of what’s going on at home.

When this little light bulb turned on finally, I gave up on the lectures on pushing, the pseudo-punishments in the form of confiscating his train set and opted instead to have a heart to heart. I sat him down on my lap, my arms wrapped around him and asked why he had pushed, and he said in that little voice I love, “I feel angry.” All of me melted into him.

So today, I’ll be his voice when he doesn’t have one, to speak up for his limits and draw boundaries to protect his space. I’ll run interference but not to save face, so there isn’t a push and pull incident with another little person but to have his back. Because this is hard and maybe what he needs right now, isn’t a teacher to discipline but a mother to love him through it.

Have you thought about your kids’ limits? How do you proactively protect them? I’d love to hear. xo