Teaching Kids Boundaries

Teaching Children to Touch Others Appropriately

Everyone Has A Body

Teach children about the human body and and its parts. Read a simple book about the body, such as "Body Parts" by Bev Schumacher. Have your child identify the body parts in the book, on a doll and on her own body. Talk about the different body parts and their functions and answer your child's questions. Tell her that everyone has a body and that everyone has a right to not be touched in ways we don't like or that make us uncomfortable.

Private Parts

Teach your child about his private parts. Name the child's private parts and help them identify their private parts. Explain that others should not touch or play with their private parts. Make it clear that they should not touch or play with other people's private parts because it is wrong. Emphasize that they should never touch another person's private parts even if that person tells them to.

Good Touching and Bad Touching

Train your child to differentiate between good touching and bad touching. Talk about some different types of touches, such as shaking hands, hugging, hand-holding, tickling and hitting. Encourage your child to brainstorm as many kinds of touches as he can. Make a two-column list on a sheet of paper. Label one side "good touches" and the other side "bad touches." Define good touches as appropriate touches that you like. Define bad touches as those that are inappropriate or that you don't like. Tell your child that appropriate means right and inappropriate means wrong. Help your child to place the different touches he has listed in either the good touches or bad touches category.

Create Rules

Work with your child to develop rules for touching others. Tell your child she should only touch people who want to be touched, and she should only touch them in ways that are appropriate. Help her write down a list of ways she should and should not touch other people. Also talk to her about people who are acceptable or unacceptable to touch. For example, it's okay to hug Grandma, but it's not okay to hug a stranger.

What Are Generational Boundaries in Child Development?

Parent/Child Boundaries

When the parent/child boundaries are clearly defined, a child feels secure. The parent is in charge and provides a framework within which the child can safely explore and experience life. Moreover, when parent/child boundaries are clear, sexual behavior remains between parents and does not include the children. When these boundaries become confused, the child might dominate the framework of the household or inappropriate behavior might occur between one or more parents and their custodial children.

Child-to-child Generational Barriers

Siblings also need barriers, as well as parental supervision. Behavior that is acceptable for an infant is not acceptable for a 4-year-old. Older siblings might sometimes act as caregivers and protectors to younger siblings, which is a delicate balance between appropriate responsibility and assuming duties best left to parents. Finally, sexual behavior between siblings should be clearly off-limits. These lines sometimes can become blurred in blended households.

Age and Expected Social Roles

A child's birthday can have a major influence on perceived generational roles. For example, birthdays govern when a child will be allowed to enter kindergarten in a public school, when she will be allowed to drive, to drink alcohol legally, and what types of educational or employment opportunities might be available as she approaches adulthood. Most educators are aware that children who are older when they enter kindergarten are better able to handle school.

Social Behavior and Generational Boundaries

Every society has expectations of what a child should or should not be doing at a particular age. Because of marketing techniques focusing on younger children, clear signals about those expectations might become blurred. This blurring can lead to children dressing in clothing more appropriate for young adults or adults. This can send the wrong message to some adults. Correct behavior and dress can send an "off-limits" message.

How to Teach Physical Boundaries in Child Development

Provide privacy when a child is taking a bath or learning to use the toilet. Show your child how to close the door at home, and do not let siblings watch her undress. Teach her that her body is private and hands-off to others. Ingrain privacy at home to ensure that she will expect privacy while at school and when visiting friends’ houses.

Explain to your child that only Mommy, Daddy and the doctor are allowed to look at the parts of his body that a swimsuit covers up, when you are giving your tot a bath or helping him get dressed. Say, “If anyone ever tries to touch you in your private area, you must tell Mommy or Daddy right away.” Remind him that his body is off-limits to others when you are potty training, going swimming or using public facilities.

Teach your child not to freeze if she is approached by a stranger, or if someone makes her feel uncomfortable in any way. Encourage her to practice yelling, “No!” and running away to a safe place, while you are at the park, in the mall, or another area that you visit. Tell her how strangers may try to entice her with candy or ice cream on a hot summer day, or even ask her to help them find a lost puppy to lure her away from others.

Teach your child that there are physical boundaries with other children as well as adults. Move him away from others if you see your child getting angry and ready to react physically with another child, so he has the chance to calm down. Explain to him that it is unacceptable to hit another person in anger, and that there are better ways to handle his emotions. Show him how to offer a sincere apology.

Show your child that each person has personal boundaries, or personal space. Have her hold her arms out and explain that some people like that amount of space around them all the time. Speak loudly near her ear and ask, “Is it uncomfortable for you when I talk like this? This is why we are mindful of how loud our voices are when we speak to our friends.”

How to Teach a Baby Not to Touch

Put away breakable or dangerous items out of your baby’s reach to avoid unnecessary frustration and confrontation when your baby wants to explore, advises the Montana State University Extension Service. Childproofing your baby’s environment keeps him safer and minimizes the amount of disciplining you’ll be doing to keep him from touching forbidden items.

Teach your child the words “no touch” and “yes touch,” advises author and pediatrician William Sears, with the Ask Dr. Sears website. Reserve “no touch” for items your child cannot touch under any circumstances, such as the stove. Use the word “yes touch” to help your child learn the items that she can touch safely.

Use a firm tone of voice as you teach your baby what he cannot touch. Your voice should not rise; however, your child needs to hear the firm insistence as you teach him what items he cannot touch. You might say, “No touch. Hot. Stove will burn you.”

Redirect your child’s attention away from the forbidden item to show her something safe she can see and touch. You might say, “Let’s go find your stuffed turtle. That’s a ‘yes touch’ -- soft, fuzzy and nice!” By offering a safe alternative, you teach your baby the difference between undesired and desired behaviors, according to “Positive Discipline: A Guide for Parents,” published by the University of Minnesota Extension.

Remain consistent about the items you do not want your child to touch to teach this rule. Your baby is smart and observant. By using consistent limits, he will soon learn the beginnings of self-control to stay within the boundaries you set.


Never discipline a baby physically by slapping or shaking to teach your child not to touch. Positive discipline involves empathizing with a child’s frustration about not being able to touch and then providing an alternative that will distract your child away from the undesired item.

Activities That Enhance Exploration in Children

Toys and Games

Though you don't have to buy new toys and games for your child each time you leave the house, every new belonging is an opportunity for young children to explore a new phenomenon in their environment. Child development resource ETLLearning.com recommends encouraging curious exploration by changing toys or games, such as changing a doll's clothes or combining two toys into a new game.

Outdoor Play

Something's always new outside. Children can make an afternoon of exploration out of looking under one rock, or comparing the leaves of a single copse of trees. In "Last Child in the Woods," journalist and child development expert Richard Louv suggests a combination of free, unstructured outdoors time and focused exploration with specific concepts in mind.

Field Trips

A visit to a museum, fire station, park or any other building encourages exploration in two ways. Scholastic.com reports that entering an unfamiliar place will make your child curious about where she is and what she can do in the new surroundings. Once she's adjusted, ETLLearning recommends guided exploration of particular points you think are important or that you know will pique her interest.

Modeling Reading

According to Dr. Ari Brown and Denise Fields, co-authors of "Toddler 411," reading is the ultimate exploration tool, granting access to exploration of places and concepts we couldn't otherwise reach. Reading with your child, and reading for yourself where your child can see you, models the value of this kind of exploration. It's also a good idea to keep a well-rounded library in your home, and to help your child look for answers in appropriate books when questions come up.

Giving Strategic Answers

It's easy to simply provide and answer your child's questions, but it can encourage exploration more to give answers that help him find the answer for himself. The Socratic Method helps a child arrive at an answer by finding the solutions to a series of questions. You can also answer by naming resources where you child can look up the information he needs.