By Trish Allison
One of the most important parts of successful parenting is establishing and maintaining consistent boundaries. It helps to think of parental boundaries as a long bowling alley lane with a rubber bumper on each side where your daughter can go from one bumper (boundary) to the other and feel safe.
As she progressively tests the limits of her world, she’ll hopefully feel safe every time she bounces off one boundary and encounters another. As she grows, her boundaries will get further and further apart.
The same bowling alley metaphor can be used to help your daughter understand the concept of ‘boundaries’ as she applies them to her own independence. Tell her that as she gets older, she will be increasingly in charge of how far to widen (or not) her own personal boundaries of consent. She needs to know that she, and she alone, is in charge of setting the boundaries for how others treat her.
Using a visual metaphor like the bowling alley bumpers will help her understand ‘boundaries’ by giving her a ‘visual’ that she can keep in her head.
- ‘We all have a thing around us called a boundary, which is a line between ourselves and other people. You can’t see it but it’s there. It’s kind of like an invisible forcefield and it’s there to protect each of us from the people who feel bad to be around — the ones who say mean things or do mean things that you just don’t deserve.’
- ‘You are completely in charge of the invisible forcefield around you. You can decide when it goes up and when it comes down. You can decide what’s allowed in and what must stay out. You’re the boss and you’ll always be the boss.’
- ‘Sometimes there might be people who do or say mean things so often that you never feel good when you’re around them. That’s when it’s okay to put your forcefield up. In fact, it’s one of the bravest things you can do.’
- ‘It’s important to respect other people, but it’s even more important to respect yourself first – and putting up your forcefield is one of the ways you can do this.’
- ‘We can’t control other people, but we can control whether we let the mean things they say or do come close enough to hurt us. Being a kid is hard work – and you’re awesome at it.’
- ‘Everyone is responsible for how they treat other people, including grownups and you, but the person you have to treat the very best is yourself. Sometimes that means not listening to what other people might say about you.’
- ‘Sometimes you have to be your own hero and protect yourself from being hurt by people who don’t know the rules about being kind and respectful.’
Stay tuned for the final installment (“Make ‘Consent’ an Ongoing Mutual Conversation”) of “How to Help Your Daughter Understand Consent.”
Trish Allison is the founder and writer of P.I.N.K. Backpack gender-equality pocket guides for parents. Visit her website at http://www.pink-backpack.com