Teach your child to set boundaries.
I know that’s so easy to say, easy to share, easy to get behind in theory.
But to really, truly do it, you have to be willing to hold yourself accountable. To look at all you do, the ways you send the messages you send, and the way you react to the boundaries they try to set.
I think this means you need to accept that your child is not everything you expected they would be. And don’t dismiss their personality as quirky because it isn’t what you predicted, and don’t dismiss their quirks as unimportant just because they’re strange to you.
That means if she doesn’t want to kiss you even though you’re family, she doesn’t have to kiss you. Don’t laugh at her for it. Don’t mock her for it. Don’t try to convince her she should do it anyway because her aversion is too weird to be honored.
Let your child be who they are. Let them feel how they do. Teach them that it matters. Show them that you’re listening.
Teach your child that their feelings are valid.
That means if she says it hurts, believe her. If she says a band aid will help, give her one. Don’t laugh at her. Don’t mock her. Don’t dismiss her just because you think she is wrong.
That means if she says she’s scared, even if her fears are irrational, don’t ignore her. Teach her it’s okay to be scared, but it’s also okay to be brave. Teach her to be proactive by facing her fears and learning how to deal with them.
Teach your child that they’re allowed to take up space.
That means if she has a room that’s supposed to be her own, let it be her own. If she asks you not to move her things around, then don’t. That means if you need something that belongs to her, then ask her if you can borrow it.
Teach your child consent.
That means if you ask and she says no, you don’t get to take it anyway. You don’t get to touch it anyway. You don’t get to move it anyway. It doesn’t matter if you don’t like it.
Teach your child it’s okay to disappoint you.
Look at all the things you’ve done where you have not allowed her to say no.
Look at all the things you’re doing where you don’t allow her to say no still.
Recognize that being your child’s parent doesn’t mean you always know what’s best for them. Be willing to learn how your child communicates their needs. And value what your child thinks those needs are. Will they always be right? No. But should you always seek to understand what their own experience is like? What their feelings are? And should you consider that? Yes.
Teach your child to set boundaries by setting boundaries yourself. Teach your child it’s okay to disappoint people by disappointing them yourself. So sometimes you might make a decision they don’t like, and they will have to deal with it, and that I’m sure is part of being a parent.
But don’t make a decision about your child without thinking about them and how they feel.
Don’t teach your child that it’s okay for people to laugh at her when she’s scared.
Don’t teach your child that it’s okay for people to laugh at her when she says she doesn’t want to kiss or hug or be affectionate.
Don’t teach your child that it’s okay for people to ignore her when she communicates her boundaries.
Don’t teach your child that it’s okay for people to take whatever they want from her.
Don’t teach your child to get used to people dismissing her. Her feelings. Her comfort zone. Her space. Her boundaries.
Don’t teach your child she owes you something because you are her parent. Teach her she doesn’t owe anyone anything.
Teach her to be good, to be kind, to be thankful, to be giving.
Teach her to be strong, to speak up, to fight for what is right, to fight for herself.
Teach her it’s okay to put herself first. And teach her how. Teach her to pay attention to what she wants. Do this by paying attention to what she wants yourself.