Friendships are strengthened when kids learn how to hold their boundary
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From almost the first day of first grade, my daughter, Mary, encountered a high- maintenance friend. No doubt you have met at least one: people who apply the rules to everyone but themselves. People who are possessive and rude, yet easily get their own feelings hurt.
This friend was all of the above: crying when Mary wouldn’t sit by her on the bus, making rude comments when she wanted to play with another friend. Each time Mary came home in tears, my advice was the same: You will meet people like that all your life. Hold your boundary.
I learned it first-hand in high school when an extremely shy girl I befriended became possessive of me. She insisted on being my only friend, even to the point of keeping me on the phone for hours, often refusing to answer while I begged her to talk to me. Finally, my youth pastor pulled me aside and gave me some of the best advice I’ve ever received:
Don’t be manipulated. Hold your boundary.
What does it look like to hold your boundary with pushy, abrasive people? And how can we parents pass down the skill to our children? Here are four tips to give your kids the tools they need.
Collierville mom Michelle Sumner asks her four kids to first search themselves when a conflict arises with a friend. “If my child has offended someone, I encourage an immediate apology, and then promptly remind them they are only responsible for their own actions — nothing more.”
If her kids can’t recall any wrongdoing, then her approach is different. “I simply tell my kids that when you’re perceived as secure, funny, or talented, don’t be surprised when that offends people.” Sumner also encourages her kids to be as kind as possible while holding their boundary.
Try Role Playing
Role play is another effective way to help kids learn how to hold their boundary. “Kids need to know what being respectfully assertive looks like,” says David Thomas, director of counseling for men and boys at Day Star Ministries. “Role playing is a great tool to educate in the differences between being passive, assertive, and aggressive.” Thomas adds that practicing at home equips kids to be ready when the situation arises.
Memphis mom Suzanne Appleton has had much success using role play at home. “Practicing has helped my son have the confidence to say no,” she says. What’s more, speaking loudly in a firm voice to boundary breakers is also a great way to alert nearby adults. “It empowers him to take control of the situation without sinking to their level,” she adds.