Episode 176

Today’s podcast here at the Art of Homeschooling is taking an honest look at setting boundaries.

Setting boundaries in a healthy way, with kindness and compassion, takes some practice. It’s often one of the hardest things to do in our relationships and families.

Relationships involve distinguishing our wants and needs from those of the people around us. And it’s within these relationships that most of our personal growth happens.

This exploration of boundaries falls into the category of what’s often called inner work ~ the reflection and personal growth we engage in.

When we get stronger from the inside out, we can come to accept our circumstances as they are without judgment and are better able to communicate clearly with those we love. 

So today, let’s get into some real talk about this sometimes challenging topic of setting boundaries. I want to help you create and hold the emotional space for your family without losing yourself.

Follow along with the show notes below and don’t miss the links I reference in the episode. Let’s jump in!

Why learn to set boundaries?

  • Learning to set boundaries is important for our own self-care, well-being, and even our own self-preservation.
  • Healthy boundaries can guard us from burnout and can actually give us a sense of relief. Often, feeling resentful is a sign that we need to set a boundary and a clue that we’re either not feeling respected or taken care of, like our own needs aren’t being met and that we’re over-giving.
  • Communicating our boundaries rather than fostering resentment is much healthier.

Setting Boundaries Starts with Self-Acceptance

Here’s a great thought to start off with! Your relationship with yourself sets the tone for every other relationship you have. Setting boundaries is really a form of self-love.

Daring to set boundaries is about having the courage to love ourselves even when we risk disappointing others.” 

~Brene Brown

If we start with self-acceptance, it makes setting boundaries so much more clear. We begin by accepting our circumstances without judgment, without labeling a situation as “good” or “bad,” and without longing for things to be different.

Hard, I know!

More about acceptance here in Episode #137: Start Where You Are

In today’s episode, I share a simple example of why starting with acceptance is so important ~ dinner table behavior.

We can choose to respond from a place of love and acceptance, rather than judgment or shame when we address the situation matter-of-factly. Setting a boundary around dinner table behavior is much more clear when we can accept the circumstances as neutral.

Because the truth is that we can’t change our circumstances. But we can change the results by changing what we think, feel, and do about the circumstance. This is what really gives us authority over our lives.

Boundaries come into play in so many areas of our day-to-day lives. Setting boundaries can include saying no, asking for space, dividing up household chores, setting time limits, or even clarifying how you feel.

On a personal note, setting boundaries is something I’ve struggled with all my life. I didn’t grow up in a family with healthy boundary setting. If this is true for you as well, know that this may be a lifetime of work and please be gentle with yourself.

What is a boundary?

So what exactly is a boundary? Here are a few different ways to think about boundaries.

A boundary is a limit or a space between you and another person: It’s a clear space where you begin and the other person ends. It could be a physical or an emotional boundary or limit between you and another person. The purpose of setting a healthy boundary is of course to protect and care for yourself.

Another way to define a boundary is that it’s a place where your responsibility ends and another person’s begins. This type of boundary can guard you from doing things for others that they should or could do for themselves.

An example of this type of boundary is when a child is learning to tie their shoes and rather than stepping in to help, you might say, “It’s your turn to try.” Sometimes children need a boundary in order to learn a new skill. And setting this boundary stops you from doing for others what they can or are learning to do.

Circling back to the idea of acceptance, consider that setting boundaries works so much better if we let go of judgment and annoyance first.

One more idea is that a boundary also prevents you from rescuing someone from the consequences of their poor choices or even destructive behavior that they need to experience in order to grow. If we don’t set a boundary, we’re robbing someone else of an important learning experience.

I know that this is hard and of course, as mothers and teachers, we want to allow our children to experience the consequences of their behavior in order to learn. But we also often have this competing desire to rescue them from pain.

What is your relationship with boundaries?

Here are some questions to ask yourself as you consider your relationship with boundaries:

  • Do you feel shame or judgment or fear that you’re being selfish when you say no or try to set a limit? 
  • Do you avoid setting a boundary out of concern that you’ll disappoint someone?
  • Do you often feel resentful but don’t do anything about it?

How to Set Boundaries

Learning to set boundaries can be a bit tricky because we want our boundaries to not be too loose or too rigid. It takes some practice!

Here are three simple steps to setting boundaries:

  1. Choose the situation and decide on the boundary that you want to set.
  2. Communicate your boundary in a kind, firm, and clear way ~ what will you do or not do in that given situation? Keep it simple and avoid over-explaining.
  3. Decide what you’ll do if a person crosses that boundary, the consequence.

Here are a few examples of clear boundary statements:

“I want our conversations to be respectful. If you yell at me again, I’m going to leave the room.”

“I like having a tidy family room. So when you leave your toys all over the floor all week, I’m going to pick them up on Fridays and put them away until next weekend.”

3 Tips About Boundaries

  1. Avoid over-explaining.
  2. Don’t wait until you’re so angry that you blow up.
  3. Recognize that we don’t get to control whether somebody else agrees with our boundary or how they respond to our boundary.

Also, be sure to give yourself some grace and some space because we all make mistakes and we all deserve to learn to take good care of ourselves and be heard.

This means behaving according to our values and beliefs, feeling safe enough to express difficult emotions, feeling supported, not taking on responsibility for someone else’s happiness, and being in tune with our feelings.  

Boundaries Allow Us to Choose Kindness

Setting boundaries in a healthy way with kindness and compassion, and from a place of love, creates healthy relationships.

I invite you to start practicing healthy boundary setting with ONE situation in your life right now.

We can let the circumstances of our lives harden us so that we become increasingly resentful and afraid. Or we can let them soften us and make us kinder and more open to what scares us. We always have this choice.”

Thanks so much for tuning in today. I hope you’ll find that the practice of setting healthy boundaries allows you to soften and connect while still caring for yourself with integrity.

And as I mentioned in the episode, if you want more guidance and inspiration with setting boundaries, self-care, and inner work, come explore the masterclass Inner Work Journey inside the Inspired at Home community. 💜

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