Setting Boundaries

I’d like to share with you how we use behaviour plans and boundary setting and to some extent, discipline to really change and improve the quality of interaction that we’re having with our young people alongside the NLP for children interventions we offer.

I’m going to be using a metaphor!

Here is my metaphor for you: I want you to imagine that we have a house and my question for you is for what reason do we have walls around our house? The answer is of course to provide protection. We also want it to protect us from the cold, the external stuff and the outside world. We also have the walls there in order to keep us safe so that we don’t lose our people and we don’t lose our stuff.

Some of you might also have a bit of a fence around your house as well. Why do we do that? We have the fences and gates there because we want to let our neighbours and other people know that this is our boundary. The boundary walls are to let other people know what they can and can’t do or where they can and can’t enter our land and when it would be trespassing. We’re letting others know about levels of appropriateness. We also do it so that it is a very windy day then all of our outside belongings won’t get blown away because we don’t want our stuff going all over the place. We also have them there because we want to be able to contain important things.

How is this relevant to setting boundaries when counselling children and young people?

There is a reason why we put boundaries in place for children and young people. It is because it provides them with a sense of protection. When you know that someone cares about you enough to say “you know what; that’s not OK, you can’t do that” it lets them know that you are protecting them that you care enough about what happens to them.

Studies have already shown that children who are disciplined do feel more loved because they are given a framework within which they are to interact and operate with the rest of the world and they know where the boundaries are about how it is they choose to behave. What’s really interesting is that it also teaches them appropriateness, in particular, about how it is that they should be behaving and interacting with others, what kind of citizens we want them to become in the future and it also helps them to contain important things – I’m referring to their emotions. Of course, emotions should be expressed but not in a non-boundaried way.

If you do not put boundaries and frameworks in place for children to adhere to then what we see is obviously not their physical positions blowing all over the place and disappearing but their emotions. The child’s emotional state will be bellowing around all over the place and it won’t be contained because we won’t have put the appropriate structures in place for them to be able to contain it. Very often, when there are young people, I’m dealing with who have things like high levels of anxiety one of the go-to things I’m looking at these days is what is your structure like behaviourally and discipline wise. What’s going on in the classroom and at home because children who are anxious quite often do not feel secure enough in their life and sometimes that lack of security is linked to (or there’s a correlation between) that and the fact that maybe they’ve got a little bit too much freedom and so they feel like they’re kind of just drifting through without having direction and discipline to help keep them on the right track.

Sometimes in my conversations with parents, in particular, there is this feedback where they state things such as “what he/she drives me so crazy that I give up! I give in and give them what they want eventually.” It might seem from the child’s perspective that that’s a small win at that moment because maybe they’d been nagging and complaining until they finally got what they wanted, the thing that they’ve been hoping to get. In this instance, the NLP counselling might be more appropriate for the parent than the child. Luckily we offer therapy for parents too!

The long-term ramifications of that ‘giving in and giving up’ instead of putting those boundaries in place for them, saying ‘no’ and sticking to it (despite the fuss that might be created), in the long run, ends up creating this effect of either high anxiety or behaviour and emotions of blowing around all over the place as if there were no walls, no windows, no boundaries, no fences or no gates – none of that security around them.

My challenge to you for this month is to evaluate your structures. Have we got good firm structures in place around the things that we most want to keep safe? I hope that’s helpful for you let me know in the comments below what you think are the most beneficial structures to have in place within the home and within your classroom.


By Gemma Bailey

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