Can I Have Any Boundaries at All?

boundaries low demand parenting foundations Sep 20, 2022
Can I Have Any Boundaries at All?

How boundaries function in a positive and proactive approach that prioritizes trust and connection 


In the traditional approach to boundaries, the boundaries themselves are seen as the central tool providing safety. The idea is that kids need boundaries in order to feel safe. The theory is that being controlled and contained by adults makes kids feel safe.


The problem is that many kids do not feel safe when they are enclosed in rigid adult boundaries. Pathologically Demand Avoidant (PDA) kids are the quintessential example of kids who don't thrive in this model. I have a theory that many kids don't actually thrive in this model. 




This model of boundaries aims to produce obedient children who listen to adults and follow their instructions. This model does produce some obedient children who do what their adults tell them to do and who follow their instructions well — and so in that way, it is working. But if you have different outcomes in mind, if you want to see your children produce different things than obedience, or if you have children who simply do not feel safe when they are enclosed, then a boundary is the wrong tool. 


Boundaries are used as a tool to make children feel safe, although safety is not often mentioned. It’s simply, “kids need boundaries.” The question we have to be asking is “What makes this child feel safe?” — Not children in general, but this specific child. By asking the question that way, we're tuning into their specific nervous system and their specific understanding of safety. 


We are adapting our parenting in a very flexible way that meets the needs of the child right in front of us, in the present moment. 


This is where low demand parenting veers off from traditional parenting. Low demand parents ask first, “What makes this child feel safe?” and then next, “What makes this child feel threatened?” Then, they proactively and wholeheartedly drop the things that are too hard in order to prioritize safety. 


Low demand parents know that when a child feels safe, they will do well. When a child feels safe, they will have greater internal resources available to meet the expectations of the adults in their life. They may not be able to sit still, comply with demands, or respond with words. They may not have the skills to do that, and so their version of doing really well may not look like a cookie cutter kid. 


But in a context of safety, kids will blossom to the best of their ability.




We must also ask what boundaries are doing for the adults who exercise them — because boundaries function powerfully for adults as well. Boundaries make adults feel in control. Boundaries make adults feel powerful. Boundaries make adults feel confident. Boundaries make adults feel structured. 


Boundaries make adults feel safe.  


Boundaries make adults feel in control, and feeling in control is central to many adults’ sense of self in the world. Maintaining control over children is a way that adults feel safe.  


What if we felt confident in ourselves without asking anything of our children? 

What if we do the deep hard inner work to feel confident, to rework our relationship to control?

If we're not going to use boundaries and control over children to give ourselves the feeling of being “adults,” then what else makes us feel like ourselves? 


Low demand parents build boundaries that preserve both your safety and your child’s safety at the same time. In a healthy bond, you can get your needs met, and your child can get their needs met at the same time. 

Why is everything so hard?


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