Boundaries, now there’s a word to make most people switch off. Before you do, please hear me out.
The concept of boundaries gets a raw deal in my opinion. People shy away from creating boundaries as if by so doing they will be making themselves into the ‘bad guy’. Although they take a little resolve and confidence to instill, once put into place, boundaries are the foundation of establishing calmness and instilling confidence in those who need a little encouragement and security.
We all need boundaries in our lives to be able to be free. An oxymoron perhaps? On first sight it appears that way. How can imposing limitations create freedom?
Let me give you an everyday example from my work as a London Children’s Entertainer.
When I first started out, many moons ago I didn’t think about boundaries. I didn’t want to be bossy, I wanted to be the fun lady that everybody loved and I wanted to bring laughter not restriction to a child’s party. So I started doing puppet shows and wondered why the children were behaving so badly. They threw things into the puppet theatre, they paid constant visits to the back of the theatre whilst I was performing, interrupting the show. They pulled the puppets, threw things at them, and kicked and pulled the puppet theatre. Aargh! Those terrible children, you might think.
This doesn’t happen any more and it’s not because I came over all ‘School Ma’am’ and thrashed them with a cane. ( metaphorically of course, that would be illegal and not very nice.)
It dawned on me pretty quickly that I had forgotten an important thing. I had forgotten to speak to the children and let them know my boundaries. Communication, how could I have forgotten about this ? In order for us to be able to have fun together we needed to simply negotiate with each other.
I had come into a party looking like a silly lady, colourfully dressed with ribbons in my hair. I didn’t look like an authority figure ( thank goodness) but I was still expected to keep the party under control but without anyone realising I was controlling. Of course the children were going to test my limits, see how far the silly ‘clown’ lady would go. So they did those ‘naughty’ things and watched my reaction.
All I needed to do was to use my calm/assertive energy and quietly explain to the children why they shouldn’t pull the puppet theatre or puppets, or go around the back of the puppet theatre. Once I explained why I didn’t want the children to do those things ( it wasn’t safe, they could pull the puppet theatre over etc) I could see the children visibly relax. I didn’t need to tell them not to poke or pull me once I had used this ‘leader’ energy. It simply didn’t happen. I took my theory from the wonderful and awesome Dog Whisperer, Cesar Milan. It seems his theory works very well with people (especially the mini-people) as well as dogs!
Now children can have fun in peace, knowing that I don’t have to shout at them . Parties seem to end up as a bit of a ‘Love-In’ with children offering countless cuddles and high fives to this silly lady after the show.
So, next time you are considering setting boundaries but are frightened of consequences, don’t be. They may be just what the doctor ordered!