It would be great to have a Boundaries 101 course in which we could all learn how to set boundaries with our children.

In an ideal world, our parents would teach us how to do that by example. They probably did not attend Boundaries 101, either, so their example may have had a few flaws, as all of us humans do. The good news is that we can learn about setting boundaries now.

Boundaries are often viewed as a line in the sand or a wall that emphatically says, “Don’t cross here or else” or, “All will be OK if we stay on opposite sides of this wall.”

Both of those statements feel hostile. Both separate you from the other person. That is not the desired outcome, especially with your children. Let’s look at boundaries in a different way — as a statement of how you can connect.

We typically become aware of a boundary when it has been crossed. We then set that boundary from a place of upset or anger or blame. With your children, it could be when they speak to you with a tone of disrespect, when they have told you that they are doing well in school and you then receive a report card that says something entirely different or when your teen comes home hours too late.

As Pam Dunn, owner of Your Infinite Life Training & Coaching Co., says, “Most of us may not be proactive about setting boundaries. We decide upon the boundaries we want to set by being upset or dissatisfied, with being overextended, or our boundaries are being crossed. This is common; however, when operating this way, we often come across as hostile, mean, frustrated, annoyed, angry and/or blaming the other person. That is the moment it becomes a wall we build. There are times you may want to build that wall; however, you can also build a bridge.”

Having agreements is one way to be proactive in building a bridge instead of a wall. Knowing yourself and what you value are key. Agreements can be about the time your teen comes home from a party, responsibilities around the house, what time you will pick your child up from school and the hours you are available to assist with homework.

Agreements are not “this is the way it is” statements. Both parties consider the options, talk about what works and agree on the setup.

Pam continued, “Setting a boundary that feels like a bridge means you will want to do it before it becomes a problem for you. This way of building and setting can be done when you know yourself so well that you will ask yourself and honestly answer yes or no, knowing what is the right thing for you. This means that if you engage in ‘being a pleaser,’ you will diminish your boundary setting success.”

Keep in mind as you practice setting boundaries that “no” is a good word.

As Pam wrote, “When saying ‘no,’ know what you are saying ‘yes’ to instead.” It may be saying yes to taking care of yourself, spending time with someone you love or keeping your child safe, responsible or accountable.

For information on Re-Entry: A Parenting Conference, go to:

Maggie Macaulay is the owner of Whole Hearted Parenting, offering coaching, courses and workshops. Contact her at 954-483-8021 or Visit her website at

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