There was a study done a few years ago where a teacher took her students to a playground that didn’t have any type of enclosed fence. In this setting, the students tended to huddle around the teacher and didn’t play much in the park. Then, the same students were taken to a different playground that did have a fence, a defined boundary. In this situation, the students reacted very differently. Instead of staying close to their teacher, the children explored and enjoyed every nook and cranny of the playground. The study results were overwhelming conclusive. Children felt safer when there were defined, definite, clear boundaries. In a similar vein, a number of years ago, I went to the top of the Empire State Building. Although I am afraid of heights, the huge rod iron rod fence that surrounded the Observation Deck made me feel safe. If that fence had not been there, and there was just a 100 floor drop off, I wouldn’t have even considered going out on the Observation Deck.
The point is this – boundaries make us feel safe. Although someone might argue that boundaries limit us, the truth is that they set us free to explore and yet still feel comfortable. Children need boundaries. Said another way, children need rules. As parents, we need to establish clear expectations so that our children know what behaviors are acceptable and what behaviors are not. When boundaries are crossed because of disobedience, then there must be appropriate consequences, or the boundaries are worthless. To raise healthy and confident children, set boundaries for your kids and work hard to ensure that the rules are followed.