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Skills, Boundaries and Questions

Have you ever thought about boundaries? A lot of issues arise when we aren’t clear and don’t set and hold good boundaries. Have you experienced this? My kiddo thinks “maybe” means keep pestering and she gets super upset when “no” is eventually said (which is really what the answer was at the beginning, but we just didn’t say it).

Here is an example:

I’m going to describe a bridge… tell me how you would proceed over it.

Bridge-rickety, sketchy bridge with no guard rails.

OK-what about this one? Solid, sturdy bridge with nice guard rails.

You would probably feel safer, more confident, less anxious over the second bridge, right? It’s because it’s clear that it’s safer (at least at first glance).

As caregivers WE need to be the sturdy, solid bridge with guard rails to give our kids the peace and calm to move forward with confidence. Remove the anxiety and worry because they know what to expect.

EXERCISE: find a partner and do this Role play…how does each one feel?

You are working at Dunkin donuts/Wawa/Starbucks

Your partner is ordering

Exercise 1. After your partner places an order, just start offering all sorts of other things, say nothing about what they actually ordered-do this until they’re annoyed, correct you in some way, say something to figure out what on earth is happening.

Exercise 2. After your partner places their order Immediately tell them “I’m so sorry, that’s not available right now”, acknowledge and validate that it stinks it’s not available , ask if they’d like anything different instead.

Which felt better to the person ordering? How did the conversation go for each?

Now think about how we do this to our kids! They ask for something that’s a “no” and instead of just telling them up front and helping them work through that… we offer a million different things that they didn’t even ask for 🤔🤨 That’s super weird, right?

Boundaries are important!

  • Be kind, firm and consistent

  • Be ready to support them through the feelings they have about the boundaries being set and held

  • Be ready to move on when they are!

Building skills is also kind!

If someone was mountain climbing and got to a point and then started flipping out, crying, trying to climb back down, etc…would you MAKE them stay, even though they’re telling/showing you that they aren’t ready or capable of continuing up? What would have you allow them to come down?

What about if this person was an adult, peer, colleague, friend? Would that change how you react? If so, why? Why don’t we respect and listen to children the same way we would fully functioning and capable adults?

Wouldn’t it be kinder to acknowledge and validate and help them safely down where you can support them and help them build skills to keep moving up later? When they feel supported?


1. How can you tell the difference between a “sensory” related behavior and a regular “bad” (for lack of a better word) behavior in an almost 3 year old?

-I would say there isn’t a difference. Challenging behaviors happen due to a skill deficit or an unmet need. Sensory needs might not be met, hunger, thirst, attention, etc. AND/OR a skill deficit such as communication, tolerance or cooperation (it’s often more then one of these). It’s also learning boundaries! Which is also why it’s important to have clear boundaries (not wish washy) and hold them kindly and calmly.

2. Your favorite way to help a sensory child overcome feelings of frustration, embarrassment, anger in a socially appropriate manner? For example, my little guy is a sensory seeker yet gets overstimulated very easily. He gets embarrassed when he gets hurt in front of people, angry when told “no”, etc. Sometimes he will lash out in anger and yell, cover eyes when embarrassed, run away, etc. I want to help him remain calm and understand it’s okay to feel embarrassed, yet he doesn’t need to flee.

-first step is modeling appropriate responses, next would be acknowledging, validating and supporting him when these situations arise. I love helping families learn to “sportscast” when things are happening (obviously not things that have the potential for immediate danger-please do intervene!). It’s also important not to try to “fix” things or distract. Crappy things happen in life and it’s important to help kiddos build skills to handle those big emotions (even if we think it’s trivial). So for example “it makes you mad/angry when I say “no”, that’s really hard to hear. I’m here to help, if you need”. And just be present with him as he grapples with hearing no. Talk as much or as little as he needs (some kids like a lot of talk, some would really prefer if we just zipped it shut lol)

3. I also want to find a way to teach him that it’s unacceptable to lash out at people when they tell him “no” or something else he isn’t happy about. I need to him to understand and respect the word “no” and react in a non aggressive manner. I hate to say it but it’s embarrassing when he lashes out at people like that.

-this is a life skill that he needs to work on!

This is TOLERANCE. Just like any other skill, it needs to be practiced and built up over time in a supportive and safe environment. Boundaries definitely help here too. Another thing you can do is work on having him hear the denial language for things he doesn’t really care about. For example: you can’t have this apple, but you can have this one (he still gets an apple, so who cares)

Join my private FB group here, Empowered Parents, so you have an opportunity to be included in the conversation! I specialize in coaching neurodiverse families with assent-based, neurodivergent-affirming support. We focus on making sure your child's needs are met while building/strengthening the parent-child bond and caregiver well-being. I use my background as a BCBA and special education teacher to collaborate with you and empower you! I run the group and interact with members to answer questions and offer support!

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Be well,


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