As a teacher, I get to see boundaries – and the lack thereof – in action every single day. It’s funny how much I have evolved in this since my nascent years as an educator. I used to read up on specific classroom management strategies, many of which involved complicated reward systems and methods for tracking behavior. I used these methods, not because they were particularly effective, but because I didn’t know any other way.
I have since learned.
Now, my classroom management comes down to two principles – build relationships with the kids and put effort into establishing the classroom expectations and boundaries at the beginning.
It’s amazing how much people thrive when they know you care and they know what is expected of them.
Boundaries Create Clear Expectations
Most people want to do the right thing. They want to get along and they prefer to make others happy rather than disappointed. Without guidelines, people are operating in the dark. And when there are no upfront expectations, human behavior has a tendency to slide towards the selfish.
It’s not fair to expect people to act a certain way if we have not expressed our preferences. Relationships built upon assumptions and blind guessing rarely succeed. We have so far failed to master telepathy and until we do, communicating boundaries is a key element of creating clear expectations.
Boundaries Help to Maintain a Balanced Relationship
When a relationship exists between one person with strong boundaries and another who has a poorly-defined perimeter, there is often an imbalance of power. The one without a clearly-defined sense of self struggles to say “no” and stand up for themselves. There may be a sense that they have to give in to get along and so they may often find that they become dependent upon their partner.
When you set limits, you are in control of how much you will allow your partner to take from you. You get to say, “You can have this much and no more.” When these parameters exist on both sides, there is a natural balance that occurs between independence and interdependence.
Boundaries Are a Sign That You Know Your Worth
When you don’t have strong boundaries, you are prone to allowing yourself to be used for the benefit of others. On the other hand, if you have a strong belief in yourself, your values and your worth, you will set higher expectations for those that you accept into your life.
There is a well-known phenomena in economics that states that people value what they have to pay for. When you have strong boundaries, you are in essence stating that there is a price for being close to you. It’s easy to undervalue yourself and set these guidelines too low. Yet when you do so, you are communicating that you do not have value. People will treat you the way you teach them to treat you.
The flip side of this truth is that once you learn to create and maintain strong boundaries, anyone you lose probably needed to go because they didn’t see your worth.
Boundaries Keep You From Losing Yourself
If you don’t know where you end and others begin, what’s to keep you from bleeding out? When you hear about somebody losing themselves in a relationship it’s often because they never established the necessary safety fencing that says, “This is me. These are my rights and my beliefs. You can visit, perhaps even stay awhile. But you can’t take any souvenirs away with you. Because when and if you leave, this is still me.”
Want to learn more about boundaries? Check out the rest of the series: