Teaching My Kids Boundaries by Playing with Me, Their Mom!

Mom playing with toddler while laying down in fall leaves

My kids think I am a Jungle Gym that they can climb on and jump on. No really, they do! They seem to have no concept of boundaries, at least not of mine, their mom. The younger ones especially struggle with this.

Every time I sit down, they think it is an invitation to jump on me, sit on me, or climb on me. Sometimes I don’t mind too much, until they hurt me by accident.

I especially don’t mind them sitting nicely with me and snuggling while we read a book or talk. Or even wanting to play Patty Cake and Peek-A-Boo with me. I love those moments completely.

However, all the jumping, climbing, and going crazy can really be difficult after a while. And painful, oh so painful when they accidentally dig their elbow into my body or jump on me.

This isn’t just when I sit down. It’s even worse if I sit on the floor or lay down on the floor.

At least sometimes when I am sitting on the couch, they will leave me be while they run all around the house and play and have fun.

When I sit or lay down on the floor, it is game over for me. They will attack me and think it is the most fun thing ever. If I am laying on my stomach they will sit on my back. If I am on my back, they will climb on my legs to fly like an airplane. If I am in a fetal yoga position, my youngest who is almost 2 will climb on my back and then stand up. I actually am impressed with how good of balance she has! It’s impressive!

Sometimes when climbing on my back, they will accidentally pull my hair. Actually, that happens almost every time eventually. It helped once I cut my hair to be just a couple inches past my shoulder. Before it was almost at my waist. So that helped a ton!

They never mean to hurt me. It is always an accident. The two youngest especially don’t realize that they are pulling my hair, or accidentally scratching me.

They are just wanting to be with me, have fun, and play with me.

Even my 2 older kids don’t seem to realize that some things are painful. Luckily, they are pretty good at not pulling my hair by accident though.

Yeah, people say I should protect myself more or do a better job or be sterner and tell them that it is not okay.

But the truth is, I love it when they climb all over me because I know that all they want is to play with me, their mom.

They know I will play with them. When I am lying on my stomach. They will run over and climb on my back as fast as they can. Then, I will reach behind my back and try to grab their feet, while they laugh and scream with joy. I pretend to be a horse and carry them around the room while playing make-believe with them.

There does come a time though when I am done playing for the moment. It is too much and I don’t want my hair to be accidentally pulled anymore and it is difficult for them to understand that I am done playing for now. They can keep on playing, but I need a break.

I need to sit on the couch and relax for a minute, or get some things done around the house. I need space for a few minutes.

My favorite saying when I say I need some space is from my 4-year-old daughter who says in the sweetest voice “But I don’t want space!!!” I gather her up in a hug and say “I know you don’t! I love spending time with you and playing with you. Right now, I need calmness, you can sit with me and relax with me if you want.” Then we snuggle and hang out until she is ready to go back to playing.

Teaching boundaries is hard. They don’t understand why other people might not want to do something or keep playing with them, especially younger kids who are still very much in their own world. As they get older, they start realizing more and more that people have different feelings, wants, and needs.

Also, that they have their own needs and feelings that are also important.

We can help teach them this and should help teach them this. It is an important lesson for our children to learn. They need to learn to respect others boundaries and they need to learn that they have their own boundaries that should be respected also. It is okay and they should tell others what they need to at that moment and how they feel.

So, I am helping my children learn that they have boundaries and that other people have boundaries. That, yes, they can play with me, but when I am done playing and need a break, they need to respect that.

My older kids now know to ask if they want a horse ride because they know they are bigger and it could be more painful for me. The two youngest are still pretty light and just run and jump on me. So, we are working on the concept that others have feelings and they can’t run and jump on me all the time. They need to ask. My four-year-old is getting pretty good about asking for a horse ride for instance. My one-year-old is well one, so lots of learning going on still.

They are also learning that when I say I’m done playing, that I mean it.

They are learning that we need to respect each other and listen to how we feel and how others feel.

During this time of learning though, I love to play with them and have fun and help teach them these important life lessons.

Mom laying on leaves playing with toddler
Mom playing with toddler and teaching boundaries through play

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