How To Set and Enforce Boundaries

Welcome to the Fabulous Hybrid Blog Carnival. Our topic this summer is BOUNDARIES! This post was written for inclusion in the quarterly Blog Carnival hosted by The Fabulous Mama Chronicles and Hybrid Rasta Mama. This month our participants reflect on boundaries in all of its many forms. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.


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Boundaries play a key role in every relationship in our lives. Be it a parent-child relationship, a spousal relationship, a sibling relationship, or any other conceivable relationship, boundaries are essential to the health of each and every relationship in our lives.

Setting and sustaining boundaries is often times extremely tough, especially when the other half of the relationship has a different view of an acceptable boundary or simply does not respect the boundary you have set forth.

Before you can enforce a boundary, you have to identify your physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual limits. Certain “limits” are rather easy to identify but there is a lot more to it than just knowing your limits. Perhaps you are very uncomfortable greeting people with a hug. Clearly, you would identify this as a physical boundary. However, it is important to do more than just identify a boundary. You must take the time to dig deep and really understand WHY you have this particular personal limit and exactly at what point does that limit go from acceptable to uncomfortable. Without self-awareness and a true understanding of your feelings regarding a specific limit, you will not be able to effectively enforce that boundary.

With this in mind, here are 6 suggestions on how to more effectively establish and enforce your boundaries, especially with those who blatantly disregard them.

  1. Communicate directly and respectfully – the first step in establishing a boundary is to communicate your needs. If your mother-in-law comes to visit and insists on feeding your children all kinds of junk food, respectfully but firmly share your stance on junk food reminding her that this is a decision that works for your family and you need her to be supportive so as to not confuse the children. If necessary, share some research or data to support any health claims you are making. Do what you can to help make her more aware of how you came to that particular decision. Speak to her at a level she will understand. Don’t patronize her but don’t speak at a level above her comprehension. This goes for any sort of situation in which you need to establish a boundary.
  2. Listen and engage the other party – make sure that you are hearing the other person’s side. Let’s use meal time prayers as an example. Your sister comes to visit and is deeply religious. It is her practice to pray as a family before any meal. You and your family are not religious and do not engage in prayer. While this is typically not the sort of boundary that would be worth losing a relationship over (in my opinion), it might be one that you would like to set a limit on. While expressing your reasons to not engage in prayer before meals, be sure to give your sister an equal opportunity to express her opinions and communicate her needs. While she is a visitor in your home, she is also committed to a spiritual practice that is very much a part of her. So while you are working on establishing boundaries, be willing to remain flexible in certain situations or with certain people. Obviously, not every boundary has flexibility but all the same, you should be willing to hear the other side if for no other reason than to better explain your needs.
  3. Enlist support – in a family setting, you are not an island and it is important to have the support of your spouse or other family members. If your boundary is being pushed, disrespected, ignored, or blatantly crossed, do not feel like you alone have to fight for your boundary. Bring in your support system and if you do not have one, do not hesitate to call upon outside support.
  4. Stand firm – if a boundary you respectfully set is not being respected it is imperative to stand firm and not give the other party the opportunity to cross the line. Using the mother-in-law example, if she continually ignores the no-junk-food boundary, you need to tell her that you are disappointed that she cannot respect your decision and that these are YOUR children and at the end of the day, you call the shots, not her. While still being respectful, you are taking a hardline stance making it clear that this boundary is non-negotiable.
  5. Enact a consequence for crossing a boundary – as a last resort, enact a consequence when a boundary is repeatedly being crossed. Clearly state the consequence to the other party making sure that they understand that you WILL enact it. Then, do just that. Some individuals like to push and push and push and won’t stop until they know you will take a specific action. Once you do so, they may have more respect for you and your boundary. That mother-in-law who won’t respect the no-junk food rule? Perhaps she will not be able to visit with her grandchildren until she agrees to abide by your food decisions.
  6. Cut ties – make yourself and your boundary a priority. If someone is continually crossing a boundary that you have done everything to establish and sustain, you may need to enact the ultimate consequence and limit your interaction with or completely eliminate contact with that individual. While this may be impossible in some situations, it may be the only answer in others.

In what ways have you been successful in establishing boundaries? Where have you struggled the most?


Visit Hybrid Rasta Mama and the Fabulous Mama Chronicles to find out how you can participate in the next Fabulous Hybrid Carnival!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants. It will be updated by 3:00pm PST on Monday, July 30th:



  1. Wonderful advice Jennifer. I especially love that you included the last one, cut ties, because it is an option, yet many of us do not realize it or are too hesitant to do it. I’m definitely bookmarking this!!!

  2. This is great Jennifer!! :) Definitely things I need to remember and focus on. Boundaries are hard for me and it helps me to see “This is a great way to implement them!”

    Also, thanks for all the work you put into the carnival!!

  3. Excellent advice! I think it is also important to value yourself in the first place, so that you can feel your boundaries are “worthy.” No one should cross your boundaries once they are set and communicated.


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