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Episode 59

Setting boundaries
in your family
(Part 2)

December 19, 2022

[Kyle]: In this podcast today we're going to do boundaries part two. This is going to give you so many great tips and skills to get you ready for the Christmas season. So, I hope you enjoy it.


[Kyle]: Hello, and welcome to episode 59 of The Art of Raising Humans. I’m Kyle.

[Sara]: And I’m Sara.

[Kyle]: And today we're going to hit episode 2 or part two of a two-parter conversation on boundaries. We wanted to make this a two-parter because boundaries is such a big issue in families.

[Sara]: It is, it's very, very important.

[Kyle]: And we want to say Merry Christmas, this should be released the Monday before Christmas. So, I hope you guys are having a fan-- I hope everyone listening is having a fantastic time, getting ready for the holiday season and all the fun times with New Year's coming up and all that stuff, but specifically we really hope that Christmas is going to be a great time for you and your kids.

[Kyle]: You know, there are some cool things going on, we wanted to update you real quick before we jump into to the discussion of boundaries and we have several great speaking opportunities coming up soon, Sara, right?

[Kyle]: Recently I spoke at a school with fifth and sixth graders, one of the local public schools here in town and then also, at a private school about a month ago and we've got about four or five set up for the spring. So, we just want to tell our listeners if anybody's listening to this and would like us to come speak in small groups or large groups, feel free to go to the website and just reach out to us there. We'd definitely love for you to go to our Facebook page or Instagram page, all that kind of stuff of The Art of Raising Humans and you'll see all the updates there as we're doing this speaking stuff. We really love going and speaking to groups and helping families in our community, but also helping families throughout the world.

[Sara]: Yes, we do.

[Kyle]: So, in part two I want to recap what we did in part one. So, part one in the discussion of boundaries, Sara, we discussed setting boundaries on ourselves first, okay? Why is that an important thing to do?

[Sara]: Well, I think a lot of parenting, most, I think we know this starts with us. So, we need to be our whole selves as healthy as we can show up and boundaries are a part of that. I want to know how to do that, I want to be comfortable with that in myself before I then take it to my children.

[Kyle]: Yeah. So, we want to model it to them and also, I think it gives us an opportunity to kind of as a couple, define what it looks like to put boundaries on yourself. Because a big part of this discussion is, one, I’m wanting to help parents see boundaries a little bit differently and specifically, I’m going to be doing a reel this week on the Facebook and Instagram stuff, that will kind of visually help you, but I hope we're able to articulate it here. Because I think when we start with the boundaries first for ourselves, we model it to the kids why putting limits on our behavior, on the way we talk, on things that we do, is healthy, okay?

[Kyle]: So, I want to start with this concept that boundaries aren't there to control you, they're not there to constrain you, they're actually there to free you.

[Kyle]: And so, the picture I have, is you can picture your kid as a plant, as a as a flower, whatever it is that your kid is growing to become. All of these things start out small, just like your kids do and when they're tiny, you put them in a pot and you put them in this pot not to control them, but you put them in this pot to actually keep them safe, you know? And so, what I see that like, Sara, is when our kids are small and they're just babies and they started to crawl or walk and they couldn't-- They weren't just being with us all the time, we followed them around the house.

[Sara]: Yeah, yeah, and we removed things that might cause harm. You know, we had our plug covers and we had cords put away and we had created an environment for them to explore, thrive, be safe, feel loved.

[Kyle]: Yeah, and the idea wasn't to stop them from doing something bad, it was actually to help them be safe and be able to explore their world and to really be able to use the freedom that I believe they already had. It's not something we gave to them, they have this freedom to just go see what the world has to offer, right?

[Kyle]: So, they're walking around, they're trying to figure out their place in this world and so, what we wanted to do by being next to them, is give them a safe environment with our presence there, to say “go explore it, go find out. Look at that thing. You're curious about that? Go check that out”, but like you said, also keeping, you know, covers on the outlets or other things like that to keep them safe from those [Unintelligible].

[Sara]: Yeah, where that freed them to explore. Because we would have had to keep them real close if there were a bunch of dangers around and by creating those things, we invited them into a place where they could explore with freedom and grow and do the things that be curious the way they are wired to be.

[Kyle]: Well, even on that note, I remember when we had spent some time in Africa, how a lot of the parents keep their kids on them, you know? And wear their kids up till at least the first year. Because lots of times in those places we were at, the villages and things, it was dangerous to be on the ground. There were snakes and all that kind of stuff that could hurt them. So, until they could walk and they could move a little differently, they didn't want them just crawling around on the dirt, you know?

[Sara]: Right

[Kyle]: So, a lot of that. So, I just picture a pot, picture your kid is the plant or the flower and you have a little tiny pot that's helping them flourish in that little-- And so, all that we have control over as parents is the soil and the size of the pot. You know, we're not there to make it into the flower we want it to be or the plant we want it to be. That's part of the beauty of growing a kid, is we get to see how they become, you know? That's part of the excitement.

[Sara]: Like you watch a plant grow. I mean, yeah, you know it's going to be a plant, but you know, the “oh, it's going to have five flowers or three flowers” or you know, you're waiting for that and you just create the environment for that plant to thrive.

[Kyle]: Yeah, and so, I see it as they get bigger and bigger, why with a plant would you want to get a bigger and bigger pot? Why would that be important?

[Sara]: It's ready for it, it needs more space.

[Kyle]: It needs more space for its roots, right? To go down and so--

[Sara]: Yeah, in order for it to continue to thrive it needs--

[Kyle]: Yeah, if you continue to keep that small pot, it would stifle its growth, right? So, you need to put in a bigger pot. But the danger is if you just took that plant and just planted it in the ground with no pot at all, it would probably get trampled, right? It wouldn't be ready for that. So, that's why you continue to increase the size of the pot and allow the roots to get deeper, you know? But if I saw that the plant wasn't thriving, maybe I put it in too big of a pot, you know? Maybe now it's getting too much water. Maybe we need to pull it back and put it into a smaller thing, right? And so, in the same way with the kids, I want you thinking about boundaries in that sense. That if the kid does mess up and the kid does, you know--

[Sara]: It's struggling in some way.

[Kyle]: Maybe we've just made the pot too big, you know? It's not about-- Once again, the pot isn't there to control them or make them do good things, it's really picture-- The pot as like that space by which they get to explore the freedom that they have and in the most successful way and if they start to fail in that, then we need to bring the pot in a little tighter, to maybe our presence-- Maybe we need to be near them more or whatever, you know? I noticed that a lot, Sara, as a school counselor. If there was a kid who was struggling at the playground and was having a lot of issues with the other kids at the playground, all I did was make my presence known, you know? I was just in closer proximity to the kid and even studies show the kids are less likely to get in trouble if you are near, because you're providing a sense of safety and security for that kid and the other kids, thereby helping that interaction go better.

[Kyle]: You know, I’ll give it some sometimes we get calls from parents, Sara, who they're little kids they, you know, they've gotten into the flow of letting their kids play alone with other kids, right? And then something will happen, like some kind of like, exposure in some kind of unhealthy way. A parent will stumble upon it and kids have crossed some boundaries, right? In regards to, you know, it might be sexually or something like that ,you know? They're little kids, they're exploring, they're curious and almost every time what I encourage those parents to do, is you want those kids to be able at some point to play again together, you know? But if you are close by, if those doors are open, you know? Then those things are less likely to happen, you know? 

[Kyle]: The kids are less likely to explore those things when you are there, you know? So, it's not that the kids did something bad and you got to come down on them or that kid can never play with that kid again, I just say like “hey, let's just when we play, set the boundary of the door is open and I’m near” and you just-- You're close by, you're within earshot or even able to see with your eyes and then, you help that play happen in a positive way and you'll find those kind of things don't happen when you're close by.

[Kyle]: So, be picturing this idea of your kid being a plant or a flower in this potted plant and then that's why you're setting boundaries, now to help them flourish and really explore their freedom in a safe way. [Unintelligible] I want to get specifically to, you know, we've talked about setting boundaries on ourselves first and modeling that, but how then--? What does that look like then to set boundaries with your kids in your home? You know, how do we teach them to do that? Because inevitably what we want to do, is not only teach them how to set boundaries for themselves, but also with others as well, you know?

[Kyle]: So, kind of give me some ideas of some things in general that we would set boundaries on our kids with.

[Sara]: Okay. In general, we have boundaries around how we treat each other, how we talk to each other, how we-- You know, what do we eat, sweets, you know. Do we wake up and eat candy bars, you know, that kind of thing. Screens.

[Kyle]: Yes, big time, yeah.

[Sara]: That kind of thing. Did I say sleep?

[Kyle]: Yeah, no, you didn’t mention it.

[Sara]: Yeah. I’m just going through the list, there's a lot of them, right? There's a lot of things because we want to take care of ourselves, we want to take care of others and our interactions with others.

[Sara]: You know, how we're interacting with people touch, you know, hugs, things like that.

[Kyle]: Yeah, yeah, tell me more about that. So, what's one that we--? I know early on when our kids were interacting, you know, with relatives, with friends, all that kind of stuff. You know, what's one way that we would teach them boundaries there about touch and touch being a positive thing?

[Sara]: Yeah, I think it starts early with babies, you know? Where people want to reach out and touch an adorable little baby. I do, right? You just want to pick them up and squeeze them and kiss them and hug them and so, I early on had known, I’d learned a lot about this in different trainings in my career and stuff and I just knew I wanted to start from the very, very beginning with boundaries around their body. That their body was theirs and there's a sort of bubble around it and people can't just engage and touch them and cross those without the child's permission. Even at a young age.

[Sara]: So, even at a young age, if they didn't want to hug somebody goodbye, that was okay. We could-- And we were there and we knew it was a safe person, but they weren't comfortable for whatever reason. Even if it was “I’m just busy playing”. I wanted them to know this is their body so they could-- They could maybe give a high five if they wanted. Sometimes they didn't even want to do that. So, let's just wave, we can be kind, you know? To grandma, grandpa, whoever it was an uncle or friend, but we-- I wasn't gonna have them have to get that hug or be touched and I wanted that, because I wanted from an early age them to know that their body is theirs and so, no one at any point is just allowed to touch them and so, some little flag would go if someone tried to ever do that.

[Sara]: Something would go off in them to go “wait a second, my mom and dad teach me that nobody can just touch me, that it's my body and I have to give that permission” and so, I wanted them just to grow up with that boundary around them and that ownership.

[Kyle]: Yeah. I mean, even today, you and I both just had a habit. If I’m gonna even give our own kids a hug, I say “can I give you a hug?”.

[Kyle]: You know, it's just a question because I don't ever think they have to give me a hug. I mean, I noticed that early on as you and I were doing this, how many times the hug wasn't even about our kids? It was about that person trying to give him the hug, you know?

[Kyle]: And I’m sure every listener on here, you know, Sara and I are in our 40s, you know? We grew up at a time where you just go give everybody a hug, just go do it. You know, you're just told to go do that and it didn't matter if you felt comfortable or not, just go give that person a hug, you know?

[Kyle]: And as we were trying to do this, I noticed people at times they had good intentions, you know? They wanted to show our kids that they love them by giving them a hug, but you would see our kid, maybe they hadn't seen this relative in a while and they would kind of squirm or pull back, but the relative was still going to hug them no matter what and in that moment, it looked like the hug had nothing to do with our kid, the hug was about the relative. The hug was about them saying “this is what's happening” and “come do it now”--

[Sara]: yeah, and “I love you and I want to hug you”.

[Sara]: But we just, you know, we had to re-educate it, we had to kind of change that dynamic and I think even though that's uncomfortable sometimes, we wanted to share “this is the boundary”.

[Kyle]: Yeah. Well, and even then, do you see-- I hope the listeners can hear that. Even in that kind of example, I think is a great example of all the other boundaries we're going to talk about. Is in that moment, really what that relative does, they're really wanting to say “I love you” and show them and they're really wanting to have this interchange of that love and affection, right? But in that moment, they're not getting it because the kid feels like a boundary is being crossed and so, if we would just in educating the relative, it would be just to relax. Eventually, the kid will get comfortable with you and want to give you a hug, kids naturally want to do that at that young age, right? And then, you can both get what you want. So, I wanted to use as an emphasis that this is why boundaries are important, is because boundaries are about-- They're saying that your needs are valuable and so are mine.

[Kyle]: And so, it's trying to help both parties be able to express what they want and what they need in that moment and then, us coming together to find a way both those can be met and that's-- So, going back to that kind of pot metaphor, is you're just then trying to design that pot, so in that space both parties that are growing and learning how to interact with each other in a healthy way, you're saying “what's the boundary here so we can both succeed in this moment?”.

[Kyle]: One doesn't get their needs met and the other one--

[Sara]: At the expense of the other.

[Kyle]: Of the other, yeah. So, that's the picture I’m always trying to think. Even like, we were talking about ,Sara, before we got on this, about even how a lot of people will come and there'll be this discussion about, you know, sleep, right? And sometimes, like “I guess-- Oh, that's a great boundary”. I’m thinking of like, when the kids were little and they'd wake up and want to come in our room, you know? And I told them like “I need my sleep, I’m not a very good--”, you know.

[Sara]: Yeah, you're a light sleeper. Once you wake up, it's hard to get back asleep.

[Kyle]: Yeah, it's hard to get back asleep. So, we put some boundaries and I remember the kids-- I’m sure every listener can relate to this. Sometimes I would wake up and their face would be right in my face, you know? And I’d freak out and be like “what are you doing here!?”, you know? And they were just trying to tell me they needed some help to go back to bed or whatever it was, right? But then I would say “listen, please do not get in my face. If you need me, just tap me and then move away from me, because then I can wake up, put you back to bed and go back to sleep, you know? But if you're right in my face, I think there's like an emergency there and I’m really scared and I gotta go--”

[Sara]: You get startled when wake up that way.

[Kyle]: Yeah, but that's an example there. I want them to feel free to come get me, but then I’m telling them how to do that so both of our needs are being met.

[Sara]: Yeah, yeah, that's a good example.

[Kyle]: What are some other examples you're thinking of like, in regards to like, maybe travel, you know? Whenever we're traveling and we'll go on road trips, we like to go to Colorado a lot and so, I’m thinking like a boundary there that we would set, is the kids think it's fun to watch movies in the car, right? But how did we go about setting boundaries with how much we're going to watch on the way there?

[Sara]: We discussed it with them, it was something where okay, yes, that it's awesome to be in this day and age where we can watch stuff. Because when I was a kid on road trips, you know, it was just you and the road.

[Kyle]: That’s right.

[Sara]: Which was great in a different way, but now we've got these movies and we have these screens and they're so portable. But we didn't want to spend the whole road trip watching stuff. We know that would be very hard on their brain, they're gonna be more emotional or they're going to struggle later, even though in that moment it makes it easier. So, we wanted to have some balance. So, we talked with them and we talked about how much we thought would be okay and then, what else could we do with that time. When we're not doing screens, what can we do? So, we have this balance for us and our family and what that looks like and we have games and other things to do in the car that aren't screens and we just for us, we have the no screens and then we do a movie and then we--

[Kyle]: Yeah, it’s a nice rhythm.

[Sara]: Yeah, and we've created our pattern for it that works really well and to help them struggle-- You know, is a struggle to be on a long road trip, so we help them and we have lots of ideas and we discussed it all as a family and we all kind of came to an agreement on what that looks like.

[Kyle]: And once again, see what boundaries are helping the kids do is develop a skill. Yes, it would be “easier” just to be on a screen the entire time, you know? And what I mean by easier, is lots of families would see that there's no conflict, that's what they would assume.

[Sara]: Yes, and you’re entertained, there’s no “are we there yet?”.

[Kyle]: Everybody’s entertained, yes, but it doesn't help them succeed. It doesn't really-- You know, and I think it also even in that example, it set a message of “let's just get through the ride”. Like the ride is unbearable, we need to do whatever we can to get through--

[Sara]: Right, yes.

[Kyle]: And we want to set a boundary even on ourselves of believing that. That getting to the destination isn't the only thing we're trying to accomplish here. I think the journey is just as important as where we're getting to.

[Sara]: Yeah. There's a lot of really fun moments we've had on the journey.

[Kyle]: A ton of them, yes, a lot of really great memories.

[Kyle]: Yeah, and just even them understanding that rhythm too, that's how you do it in a healthier way, okay? Just escaping for 10 hours on your way to Colorado, just like getting your mind to just like, “I can't handle it unless I’m on a screen”. You can, and we're gonna help you succeed with that. So, I love something you do, Sara, is you typically on those trips also get some real cheap like, little trinkets for each of them. Some new thing like, maybe some new thinking putty or some-- A new little Lego set that's really tiny and they're not expensive at all, but they're new ways to grab their imagination to help them be excited for the trip. Because that's something I don't want them to buy into, that on these long trips we just endure them until we get there, I want them--

[Kyle]: I want them to put boundaries on themselves on how they do the journey, you know? And so, that's no-- I’m also thinking of another boundary for older kids is like, how Abby when she had her phone and she came to us with the list-- We kind of talked about this in a previous episode, but she came with the positives of having a phone, the negatives of having a phone and the boundaries she was going to place on the phone. So, she was going to place boundaries like “I’m gonna plug it in downstairs every night, so I don't have it up in my room. I only want to be on it this much per day. I’m open to feedback from all of you if you think I’m on it too much”. She put the boundary “I don't want social media on it”, you know? These kinds of boundaries which showed us a level of self-control and self-discipline with the device, that really made it more likely that we thought she could succeed with it and that it was like, she was almost now taking control of the pot that she needed to flourish in.

[Sara]: Yeah, yeah, and we asked her, we invited her to “how do you want to be a person with a phone?”. She's seen lots of people with phones and just to invite her into “what do you--? How do you want to show up? What do you want to look like as a person with a phone?”, you know? Always on it, you know.

[Kyle]: So, I want to discuss third step idea, okay? So, first of all, going back to us placing boundaries on ourselves, right? Boundaries in how we talk to the kids, right? Boundaries even on-- I know we didn't express this particularly, but boundaries on using fear to control, you know?

[Kyle]: So, something like-- Since we don't want to do that. Not to say we never get scary or never yell, we do sometimes, but we always know when we've done that, we've crossed a boundary and the boundary is “I don't want to be treated that way. I don't want them using fear of me, I don't want them using fear on others”. So as much as you can--

[Sara]: And I would add to that guilt and shame.

[Kyle]: Yeah, great. Yeah. So, trying to put boundaries on “I don't want to use fear, I don't want to use shame, I don't want to use guilt to try to motivate their behavior”, right? And when we do that, we try to keep each other accountable to the fact that we “hey, we’ve crossed that boundary”, you know? And then what we've noticed is as we cross that boundary, they as siblings cross that boundary with each other.

[Sara]: They do.

[Kyle]: The more we’re yelling at them, the more we kind of give veiled threats to say “I want this done now”, they will start doing it to one another and you'll start seeing boundaries start getting crossed, you know, almost daily, you know? And we're not living out these values we have of like, treating people the way you want to be treated.

[Kyle]: So, I want the listeners to see that stair-step approaches, as we put the boundaries on saying “hey, we're not going to use fear. We're not going to shame these kids into behave”. Instead, we're going to come alongside and support them, we're going to come alongside and teach them. We're going to guide them; we're going to disciple them. Then you start seeing them practice that with each other's siblings and there's so many moments throughout the day, where they're constantly crossing each other's boundaries and those are great moments to teach them and guide them in those moments, you know? And then the end result of that is, then when they go out into the world, they're able to cultivate healthy interactions, healthy relations with people at school and at their jobs and those kinds of relationships.

[Sara]: Yeah, they create-- They learn how to create the boundaries for themselves, create the boundaries for those they're in a relationship with and they carry that out there.

[Kyle]: Yeah, and so, I think those come across so many times in just the interactions with friends, when they get their feelings hurt on how a friend is talking to them. When you're using this idea of boundaries, instead of thinking that friend should or should not have spoken to that way, it goes back to “what bothered you about what that friend said?”. Well, it's because there's a boundary that they crossed, right? And so, maybe they don't even know that boundaries there, maybe you need to have a conversation with that friend about how you would like them to talk to you and that you don't really want them talking to you that way.

[Kyle]: But also realizing that friend was trying to convey something. What were they trying to convey? How could they convey it? So, it goes back to this thought of even when you're setting boundaries with yourself, you're doing it to help you thrive and not control your behavior with fear or shame, but then you're also helping set boundaries for them so they can thrive and not be bound by fear or shame and then they can do that with all the friends and other relationships they have in their life. That they're not trying to control other people, control what they say, they're trying to guide and help them say it in a way that's going to be healthier in that interaction.

[Kyle]: So, I know this is a really deep discussion. I know Sara and I, it's kind of a big discussion, but I hope with the picture of the plant with the pots, I hope it helps you, especially over this Christmas time. You know, we specifically did this podcast for this time of year, because you're going to be with a lot of family, there's going to be a lot of interactions with relatives. I think the hugging example was fantastic, Sara, because that's going to happen a lot with relatives and stuff and typically, like I’ll give a quick example. If a relative tried to do that and our kids seem like-- He try to hug them and they weren't ready for it, they seemed uncomfortable, just say “hey, give them a minute. They'll warm up, they would love to hug you later”, you know? And it's a great opportunity even to talk to the kid, to say “hey, what was so uncomfortable about hugging, you know, that person?” And then typically by the end of that Christmas time, they're ready to hug that person.

[Sara]: And if they aren't, that's okay too and you just talk for your child-- If your child's not-- Well, I don't know how the age is, but if your child isn't ready, I don't care if they're 10 and they're not ready. Then, I would just speak for them and say “oh, they're not ready to hug yet”. Even we as grown adults know, right? Some people are more huggy and some people aren’t, you know? Children are the same way, that's okay.

[Kyle]: Well, and also even the boundaries of gifts and like, waiting for people to open up gifts. There's so many great opportunities of this holiday time as you're listening this, to be able to set clear expectations and talk with your kids about the boundaries you want to have going into this time. Because we--

[Sara]: Time. Time is really-- Holidays, [Unintelligible] lots of boundaries around. There's opportunities to have boundaries around time. You running around crazy and trying to have every magical moment and are you taking care of yourself?

[Kyle]: That's great. So, just be aware of that, aware of the boundaries that you're wanting to set with your family, so that this holiday season can be one of real growth, intimacy, coming together. So, hope this conversation was helpful to you. Please go to-- We'd love for you to comment on this, give us five stars, you know? Any comments. We've lately been getting some good feedback from, you know, clients of ours and other people and the public that we've run into. It's really been cool to see all the different people who have been listening to the podcasts and have different thoughts and ideas and they're hoping us cultivate those topics in the future. So, once again, Merry Christmas and I hope you have a beautiful, beautiful holiday week.

[Sara]: Thank you for listening.

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