This week our Positive Parenting expert Josie discusses how to introduce boundaries, an element of firmness and some basic ground rules.

Positive Parenting these days is everywhere in some form or another but often parents misunderstand the balance between nurturing independence & emotional wellbeing, and setting clear expectations and boundaries.  

As a Positive Parenting Coach I have seen a rise in the number of families I work with where a ‘fluffy’ approach to parenting is encouraging misbehaviour, lack of cooperation and exasperated parents. Many parents are becoming too permissive in the name of Positive Parenting because, rightly so, parents don’t want to be the classic shouty authoritative parent. 

I think the language of firmness needs some defining. As a coach, I am a strong believer in the power of kind, nurturing and collaborative parenting.  I also know that it is vital to introduce boundaries, an element of firmness and some basic ground rules to cultivate a happy parenting relationship. Letting our children do what they want ultimately results in a less harmonious family life for all. 

I am a huge advocate of talking to children with respect, of only being kind, of listening to your child and putting their emotional wellbeing at the forefront, of empowering them and elevating them. 

However, we need a middle ground of kindness but not with unambiguous boundaries. Balancing firmness and kindness is not easy, and the balance of course varies from person to person, based on their unique priorities and experiences. Something that may be important to me may not be important to you, and that’s OK. Parenting and our personal values and expectations are individual: no two families have the same. 

It is important to take some time to think about what is important to you, what are your areas open to compromise and which boundaries are non–negotiable. Firmness, or a lack of it, should never lead to blame, shame, humiliation or guilt for the child or the parent. Firmness allows your child to know where they stand, to know what we expect of them and to offer a consistent approach. Firmness is important in order to show respect for ourselves and for the needs of the situation. If we don’t set boundaries as a parent, then how will the children know what we expect from them?   


When a child wants to do something other than what we ask or expect, clear and direct language is required, for example: 


  • State clear expectations – we cannot expect a child to know what we expect if we don’t tell them
  • Negotiate an agreement – ensure this is not disguised bribery 
  • Repeat a rule that is clearly already in place (e.g. such as seatbelts always being worn in the car)

You can also brainstorm together what the limits should be for different things. For example, TV time, or when homework is happening. When children are involved in any decision, their engagement with the outcome is hugely increased.  Be sure to involve them in the discussion: why the limits are important; what they should be together; and how everyone can be encouraged to follow them.

With these tips and a kind approach, creating capable and cooperative children is more than achievable. As parents we need to be aware of our tendency to use a permissive style of teaching (which is only kind) or a more authoritative style of teaching (only firm). This awareness in ourselves helps us to see where we can make changes that are right for our family.

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