19. Helping our Kids Learn Boundaries

Boundaries with your kids

In this episode, Mary talks to Kristin Chadwick about boundaries with kids and how Kristin was able to learn boundaries from a very young age. Kristin now has kids entering teenage years, so her and Mary talk all about setting boundaries around friendships and dating.

They also dive into when a good time is to start introducing boundaries to your kids and how to start having those open conversations about what your kids are ok with and what they are not ok with.

Main Episode Takeaways

  • Your child’s behaviors and actions are not a reflection of you
  • How to manage our reactions when our children are hurt
  • Everyone is born valuable
  • When to start having boundary conversations with our kids

Want to learn more about boundaries?

– Boundaries quiz HERE
Take my Boundaries 101 Course
– Do you want to overcome your hurdles of people pleasing? Book a free call with Mary!


Mary: Let’s talk boundaries. I’m here with Kristin Chadwick. Hi Kristen. Can you introduce yourself for us? 

Kristin: Yes. Hi. I am Kristin Chadwick and I am a mama of four and I love talking about boundaries. I think that I have had the privilege of growing up with a mom who is a counselor and her specialty is boundaries. And so I’ve learned a lot, I’ve read all the boundaries books. And really enjoy continuing to learn it. But I think it’s a whole different zone when you’re actually parenting children. And so that’s why I’m here today because I really wanna know how do you balance, you know, teaching boundaries and how much do you get involved in helping your kids set boundaries, specifically teenagers? 

Mary: Hmm. This is such a good topic. I’m glad you’re here.

Kristin: Hmm. Thank you. 

Mary: So I love that you had a mom who taught you boundaries and was comfortable around that topic. I’m curious what worked for you as a kid, what did she teach you? How did you know that that was something that was valued in your home? 

Kristin: Yeah, there was a lot of open conversation, a lot of, well, how did that make you feel? And really turning it back onto me instead of other people. So I, I’m very aware of many dinner conversations of her prodding, really what was going on inside of me in certain moments. Yeah, that, that question of, well, how did that make you feel? I’m sure that sounds uncomfortable and that sounds like a tough situation. A lot of validation of what I was feeling in the moment. So that’s really how I learned how. She helped me and there was a lot of, like, I don’t know what to say in this situation, what do I say? And then she’d be like, well, how about you say this? And so then I would like be like, hold onto it, brain. Don’t let it go. Let me see if I can repeat that again so beautifully, like you said it. And I still do that. Like, I mean, even just this past week I called her and was like, how do I handle this situation? Okay. I’m writing it down in my phone exactly how you said it. 

Mary: I love her already. It’s a good mama you have. 

Kristin: It’s a great mama. 

Mary: That’s awesome. That’s awesome. Well, I think that’s true, like really teaching our kids that we’re responsible for our own feelings, right? And that other people are not responsible for our feelings, and that we are not responsible for other people’s feelings and teaching them that the lotus of control is within you. Right? So we want our children to grow up to… I want my children to grow up to be internally motivated. I don’t want them to seek approval and validation and the desires of the world or the people around them. I want them to, to create enough of a sense of self that they’re gonna look for that within. So as you were talking about like, well, how did that make you feel and how did you show up? And I love those questions because it really focuses on the personal growth of the child. So I think that’s one, that’s one good way. 

Kristin: Mm-hmm. Yeah. Yeah. Absolutely. It’s hard though when you’re like, and I was describing this beforehand, where you get invested in the dynamic of what’s happening, and you’re like, oh, but now my feelings are so like triggered. And so now to find the balance of, okay, I gotta separate myself and have a clear boundary here and teach her. Like stepping into that and, and stepping into her scenario. 

Mary: Mm-hmm. Yeah. And parenting, our role as a parent is sometimes not clear to find, or it changes over time with the ages and stages of our children. And with my teenagers specifically, when I take on the perception that like these are people, right? That these are individual humans and that they are not actually something I need to control. They’re not actually, like, their behavior and their choices are not a reflection of me. Then I can love them better and then I can have that boundary around like their choices are their own. Right? And their thoughts are their own, their feelings are their own, and they get to make their own decisions and they get to experience their own life, and they really are their own people. When I think about it that way, I’m actually able to love them better, like I’m able to show up instead of, I don’t know it seems like either when they were younger or maybe different generation, they were kind of like, you have to control these people and make them behave. And then whether or not you do a good job of that is determined by how they come out at the end. And then whatever people they are is a reflection of how good you did. And that’s terrible. Like, that’s a terrible scenario. 

Kristin: Yes. Mm-hmm. 

Mary: Right? Because it sets up the parent to be like, I’m trying to control this person. And I’m highly invested in controlling this person because somehow it’s gonna be a reflection of me. Right? So the power dynamics are all over the place, and they’re not really healthy for either person’s growth when I do it that way. So I just choose to believe my kids are already good people. They’re inherently valuable, they’re already good people, and they get to make their own choices and some of their choices I’m gonna like, and some of their choices I’m not gonna like, and I wanna be a resource to them. I wanna love them, I wanna support them. I wanna be able to just witness them and watch them grow and teach them and coach them as much as they, you know, are needing or willing to receive at that time.

Kristin: Yeah, that’s good. And I’m, I am thankful that my daughter is really open with me about many things. I’m sure there are things that she does not share, which is normal. I love what you’re saying, and I feel like I have that perception. I think for me, where it gets fuzzy is when I hear of a friend or maybe there’s a crush or something and they are being hurtful towards my daughter, it’s really hard for me to separate my emotions of like, well, they’re just being mean, like you know, and like getting fired up about it instead of trying to stay regulated myself and to ask her like, well, what do you think is going on?

Like, that’s gotta hurt. And I’m sorry. And I just feel so helpless in that, in those spaces of watching our kids grow from like my daughter 16, she’s almost gonna leave the house in a couple years. That’s so weird to me. And knowing she’s gotta start to figure this out with her other friends. I love that she comes to me, but it’s also like learning to set her own boundaries of I don’t wanna be treated that way. And so that’s where I’m struggling is the, like, how do I not get dysregulated in moments where it feels very hurtful towards my daughter. 

Mary: Yes. And that’s something that I think all parents struggle with, right? I mean, it’s why we see, you know, parents on the sidelines of the sports game attacking the refs, right? I mean, it’s why we see parents like causing scenes at schools with teachers that they think are mistreating their kids. It’s why we, you know, I think for all of us parents, it’s really difficult for us to see our children experiencing mistreatment or even negative emotion at all, right? We wanna kind of protect our children from feeling sad or angry or disappointed, or like, I remember when I was expecting my first child and thinking before I even had him thinking, someday there will be someone who doesn’t wanna play with him on the playground and how much that would hurt my heart. You know, and the reality is, is that happens to every kid. Right? Every child has an experience at some point in their life when someone doesn’t wanna play with them on the playground. Figuratively, right? 

Kristin: Mm-hmm. Yes. Uhhuh. 

Mary: And I remember when he had his first girlfriend and thinking like, oh man, like the chances of this lasting long term are pretty slim to none. And he is like, heart in it now. Like this is gonna be his first like romantic heartbreak and just knowing like how helpless that feels. Right? That kind of, oh, like this person that I love so much and that I’m committed to and that I’ve invested in is going to experience some negative emotion. And I think that it comes down to again, seeing them as humans instead of seeing them as an extension of us. Because every human being is going to experience some mistreatment in their life. It’s actually a really good skill for them to learn. Like how to negotiate that, how to speak up for themselves, how to decide what they’re willing to participate in and what they’re not willing to participate in.

And, and like you said, how your mom said, maybe you say it this way, like to practice saying it because our children will have other experiences in their lives when they’re adults, when they’re not like under our home, you know? And where, I mean, there will be unfortunately, like someone in a work setting who’s unkind to them. Unfortunately, I think that’s just what happens. Like every person experiences someone being unkind to them. And so I think what we do is we teach them that they’re valuable. We teach them that they get to speak up, that they get to decide who they have in their lives and who they don’t have in their lives and what they’re willing to participate in, what they’re not willing to participate in, and um, and then what to do in those situations, right? So I remember also my son saying something like, there’s a kid who’s mean, right? There’s a kid who’s mean at school and well, aren’t we supposed to be friends with everybody? And when they’re that little they just call everybody friends, right? 

Kristin: Mm-hmm. Yeah. It’s so sweet. 

Mary: So sweet. Like, oh, here’s a person who’s about my size.

Kristin: I still do that. 

Mary: So I do remember him coming home from like kindergarten and saying that there was a kid, and I remember the child’s name. I won’t say it here, but I remember the child’s name saying that he’s mean and, uh, am I supposed to be his friend? And I remember teaching him even in that moment, he was like five or six, teaching him that we are kind to everyone. That we treat people like they are valuable. Like these are children of God. That’s what we believe, and we are gonna treat them with kindness, and we choose our friends wisely. 

Kristin: Hmm. Yeah. 

Mary: Right? So you don’t have to be friends with him, you don’t have to be friends with anyone you don’t wanna be friends with. You do need to be kind to him. My expectation for you is that you are gonna treat him with kindness. But we don’t need to be friends with everyone. And I think that lesson applies to them at all ages of their development. Right? In their teenage years, it’s even harder to say, you know, this person’s kind of mean and I don’t like the way they talk to me, and I don’t like the way I feel around ’em, and I don’t like how they’re treating other people and maybe I don’t wanna participate in a friendship with this person or I don’t wanna spend my time with that person. But I promise you it’s gonna be a good lesson for them to learn as teenagers because it will happen again as adults.

Kristin: Yeah, that’s good. Yeah, that’s a good reminder that it’s not just like this one incident or earlier, it’s like gonna keep following and there will be people that don’t align and don’t do what you think is wise. Or are not kind themselves. Yeah. That’s good. That’s a good reminder for 

Mary: sure. Yeah. All right. What other questions do you have? 

Kristin: I would love boundary conversations and dating, so we are just stepping into that. And yeah, just teaching her like taking it slow and boundaries on your heart and like what you were saying with your son, like trusting that he’s in it and you know that there’s gonna be pain later on, most likely. And just how to walk with them in that of like, let’s definitely guard your heart and I wanna be there to support you through that process too. 

Mary: Mm-hmm. Well, I will be honest. when my son first started dating, I was not ready for him to begin dating. He was much more ready than I was 

Kristin: OK, Mama’s heart’s not ready. 

Mary: I know. I was like wait, what? So that was my experience. And actually in general, I think that at least for my oldest, he’s been ready to be more independent before I have been ready for him to be independent. And and so I have had some feelings about that. I’ve had to do some my own coaching, honestly, around that.

Kristin: So how did you coach yourself through that? 

Mary: I have to remember that he, like, again, he’s a human, having a human experience. Nothing’s going wrong here. I still see him sometimes as like a three-year-old on my lap, you know? . And he walks in the door and he’s like, looks like a man. It’s very, very strange. It’s so weird, right? like, he calls on the phone and like, I remember the year that his voice changed and I remember being like, who is this person? 

Kristin: Oh man, I’m not there yet. I have my boys is 14 and the twin boys are 12. So we’re like right at the cusp of my 14 year old. He’s taller than me now, but his voice has not changed. But I’m waiting for that day of like, oh my gosh.

Mary: Yes. He’s taller than me now, but I don’t often admit it. Still pretend. 

Kristin: I’m so bigger than you. 

Mary: Yeah. When he was getting ready for kindergarten, I remember we went in for like medical checkup for his like kindergarten shots. And he’s always been so brave about shots. And the doctor said he’s gonna be tall, like he’s gonna be over six foot. And I remember thinking like in my head, I couldn’t even fathom like, what? Someday this kid’s gonna be bigger than me? And he’s like, don’t worry, mom. I’ll still listen. I’ll still listen. 


Kristin: my gosh. Okay. This is a total tangent, but it’s hits on that, yeah. Of the mom and the son, did you see on Instagram, they like clipped a video of Kelce getting a hug from his mom at the end of the Super Bowl. Oh my gosh.

Mary: Both of them, hugging their mom. 

Kristin: I was like that look, that look from Kelce just about did me in. I was like, well, that, every mom that is a boy mom knows that look of like, oh, mom. It totally makes me tear up.

Mary: Yeah, that was so sweet. So sweet. Yeah. Anyways yes, when, when he walks in the door, I still see this little face, right? And I don’t know if that ever goes away. I’ve asked actually, people who have adult children and they say no. Like you still see them as that little kid. So when he started dating and I wasn’t quite ready for him to date, I remember doing some self-coaching and then having a conversation with him and saying things like, okay, so what are some values in our family and what are some values that you want to apply to this dating situation, right? And so we had some family rules as well, right? So initially it was like we dated in groups. We don’t drive in cars alone together, like the girl was welcome in our home on the main floor. Like so we did have some rules for our family to kind of protect his heart and, and his desires. And I felt really good about that. Once they had their own vehicles, I felt like there was kind of a loss of control, they could kind of, you know, go where they were and, and really needed to be able to use their own agency to make their own decisions about kind of what they were okay with and what they were not okay with.

And I think at that point, I’m mostly focused just on kind of open communication because I knew that if I tried to intervene, then the result of that would’ve been disconnection between the child and I. As much as I was like, maybe I don’t really want him to have a girlfriend, or maybe I’m not ready for him to date. He was ready and or thought he was at least. And I just kind of prayed a lot and thought a lot and tried to remember what it was like when I was a kid. And yeah, just had those limits about like this, these are the rules in our family and I expect you to follow these rules and kind of have your own agency here, kiddo. So it was just that balance of really trying to be guided by the spirit and using discernment and showing up with love and just doing the best I can. I’m not saying I’m great at it, I just did the best I could.

Kristin: Oh yeah. Well, and I think that’s valuable because you know, I think oh yeah, when they get their own car, it’s a whole different ballgame of letting go of control. That’s what it is. I think that’s where I’m like struggling. Going back to the first question of like really realizing they are their own human and they’re having a human experience. And for me, thinking of my daughter going out on a date, that letting go and trusting that she knows her boundaries and she knows her rules. And knowing she knows our rules too already. Like it does kind of put me back into a place of peace of like, okay, I’m not in control and that is okay and we’re gonna walk through this together and maybe that space of like working out my own emotions in it is between me and my journal, or me and my spouse or friends that are going through it. And that’s where like the boundary is of just holding space for my daughter, and then I can hold space with friends who can listen and be like, yeah, that’s hard. That’s a tough situation. So… yeah. 

Mary: Yeah, absolutely. And I do think you’re right. I think that like sometimes the best we can do as parents is to regulate our own emotions. Because if we are dysregulated, we can’t really show up the way that we want to and be a resource and a guide and steward for our children. So I do think sometimes the best way is for us just to take care of ourselves so that we can not bring all of that into our interactions with their kiddos. Which is easier said than done. 

Kristin: Totally. Yes. And I have said that too before of like the amount of healing that we do on our own is the amount that we can show up for our kids and absolutely that’s so true. Yeah. I have another question though about the dating thing because it’s actually come up in my group of friends multiple times. So when our kids start dating, the question is how much do you get invested into it? So like, you wanna be excited for them. You wanna pour into this kid that’s coming into your home, but how much do you do that without you know, it feels like there should be a boundary there of how much investment do you do in this kiddo that’s coming into your home versus like, just letting your child developed that friendship and relationship. Like I’m thinking we have three boys, so when my daughter brings home a date, they wanna know who this kid is, right? And how much is too much of like, come be invited into our space and get to know our boys, and yeah.

Mary: Yeah. So I treated it just like, another friend. So I don’t know that I had a different boundary between a dating partner versus a friend. So I would open my home up to my kiddos friends if they wanted to come. I do remember my son wanted to bring her to his birthday. We were doing a family birthday thing and I was like, yeah, sure he, bring her to the I think I kind of allowed him to decide how much he wanted to involve his dating partner in our family. I think he was not as open to it as I was. I was like, sure have her over, you know, whatever. Like I would with other friends. Right? Yeah. We’re gonna order pizza and watch a movie as a family and if someone wants to bring a friend to something like that, that would be okay in our home. I think I kind of let him decide how much, but for me, I would kind of rather them be around than not be around. 

Kristin: Absolutely. That’s a good point. 

Mary: Yeah. So I don’t know that there’s a right or wrong answer, but as a parent, you get to decide, right? That’s your home, that’s your family, that’s your heart. So the boundary is yours, how much you’re willing to open up your home and your family and your heart too to someone that they’re dating. But I treated it just like I would a friend.

Kristin: Yeah, that’s good. And I like the continuing it, bring it back to, it’s their choice on how much they wanna involve the whole family or not. But yeah, I love that. 

Mary: Yeah. One thing I was thinking as you were talking though, is that it starts when they’re much younger. Like teaching them to, to have boundaries can start when they’re much younger. I do remember the first time he went to high school and he came home and he said, I got invited to go to homecoming. I said You did? I was so surprised. Like you did. He was like 14, like barely a freshman. It was just a couple weeks of school and I said, is it like friend group or is it a date? And I’m so glad that we had had conversations about our family expectations for dating before that happened. So it was very easy at that moment to say, okay, so 14 freshmen, like you can go if it’s a group, if it’s friends. At that stage, I wasn’t ready for him to go one-on-one on a date with someone. So, I mean, I remember I drove him to like meet for pictures, and then there were other parents who like drove them to a restaurant and took them to the dance and that was it. Like there was no after parties, like there are now that he’s a senior, you know? So kind of easing into it. But I’m so glad that we had those conversations before that happened, so that it was just part of our natural conversation. Like, okay, so you know, maybe when you’re 16 you have like a one-on-one date with someone or yeah, it just seemed a lot more natural at that point. But I actually want, I was thinking, I started having boundary conversations with my kids when they were very young.

And this has reminded me of a story, so my daughter, when she was three or four years old, she was not yet in school, we went to like an indoor playground where they have bounce house jumping places and usually during the week it was pretty dead. Like there was not a lot of kids there And it was just a few preschoolers with a few parents but that particular day was a school out day, and I didn’t know that the school wasn’t in session, so it was really busy. And so there were lots and lots of kids and there were kids that were older than my children at the time. And I remember this specific situation where, so my little one, she was playing on this inflatable that looks like an airport evacuation slide, but it’s just a big inflatable slide. And on one side there’s like a rope that you like climb up and then you kind of slide down and she was much younger and smaller than the other kids. And so she was climbing up this rope very slowly, very, very slowly, and there was a big group of older kids, boys mostly, who were behind her in line. And she was just slow and steady, kind of one step at a time trying to get to the top so she could slide down. And they were in line behind her and I was at the bottom of the slide watching and, and I hear them saying like, hurry up, little girl, move out the way. Like, go little girl, you know, and and one of the boys in line behind her reached up and pushed her bottom ahead to kind of encourage her along to go faster so they could get to the top of the slide. And she turned around and was like, nobody is allowed to touch my bottom or my vagina, and you will not do that to me again. Then the kid behind her was like, then move out of the way. She just turns around and keeps on trucking, going slow up to the top. She gets to the top and she slides down and she sees me at the bottom and she says, mom remember when you told me nobody’s allowed to touch my bottom and my vagina? She didn’t even say the word correctly. Like, well, that boy just did and I told him not to, and you’re the grownup that I’m telling. So can I go over to this place? 

Kristin: Moving on. Oh, that’s so good. Those boundaries were already in place. 

Mary: They were. I should have known I was the boundary coach way back then. 

Kristin: Oh, so good. I love that she just pulled it right out and almost immediately was like, Nope. Oh, so good. Just imagine what her little like pathways in her brain are already like at this point.

Mary: Oh, so funny. So that’s what it’s like to be a child of the boundaries coach. 

Kristin: It’s good. It’s working.

Mary: Oh man. So silly. But I do think when they’re younger, Teaching them what’s okay and not okay for them, and that they do get a say in what they’re willing to participate in and what they’re not willing to participate in that sometimes it kind of backfires on me. 

Kristin: Oh no. Oh no. 

Mary: Because I have, you know, conversations about like chore charts that don’t go well sometimes. 

Kristin: Uhhuh, oh, that’s real. That is very real. I wanna hear that conversation played out though. 

Mary: I mean, it usually sounds like I don’t know, like today we got snow, right? So we had a conversation just this morning about like, okay, so the trash needs to be taken to the street because it’s our trash day, the sidewalk and driveway need to be shoveled, the dishes need to be unloaded from last night. Yeah. And I usually say something like, okay, so who wants to do what? And they’re like, no. No, we don’t want to, 

Kristin: We don’t wanna do any of it. Okay. Yeah. Yep. So what do you say? 

Mary: This morning I said, how about I will finish dishes and you shovel the driveway. Mm, no. I don’t wanna do either of those two. This is the sassy teenager that nobody was touching on the slide. 

Kristin: That makes sense. Oh man. Oh goodness. Oh, our kids are funny and they teach us us a lot. 

Mary: They teach us so much. It’s true. They teach us so much. Yeah. Awesome. Okay, what’d you learn?

Kristin: I am learning that I have to regulate my own emotions. Mm-hmm. . I feel like that one I’ve had to learn over and over again. That my kids are their own person and how they choose to walk out their lives is not a reflection of myself. And I think embracing that they are their own person. So yeah, I think that’s good. 

Mary: Yeah, I love that too. And once we understand that they’re their own people, that we still have stewardship over them but we just get to love them better. 

Kristin: Mm-hmm. Yeah. It opens up more space for sure. Mm-hmm.

Mary: Yeah. Awesome. Thank you so much for being here Kristin. Do you wanna tell us a little bit about your business? And how we know each other.

Kristin: Yes. So I am a podcast manager and coach. I help people launch their podcasts like Mary’s. And it was so much fun doing that. And yeah, that’s what I get to do for a living, is I get to come alongside these amazing, powerful women and help them launch their voices and amplify their message out into the world.

Mary: And I worked with Kristin and she’s amazing. So if anyone’s listening and thinking about launching a podcast, go look her up. I’ll tag her. 

Kristin: Thank you. Thanks . 

Mary: All right. Awesome. See you later, friend. 

Kristin: All right, bye.