Supernanny Parenting Discussion Guide – Week 4 (Boundaries)

Week 4 – Establishing Appropriate Boundaries

Icebreaker Question: Where is the farthest place that you have ever traveled from your home?


I have learned to enjoy exploring and experiencing new places.  At press time, I believe that I have visited 36 of the 50 states, and I have traveled to three other countries.  Honolulu, Hawaii is probably the place I’ve visited that is furthest from my home.  However, my two trips to France are probably where I felt the furthest from home.  When you’re not familiar with the location, the language, the currency, and the culture, it can feel like you’ve traveled to another planet.

The higher speed and relatively lower cost of travel have made it easier to travel away from the boundaries of our home town.

As parents, our responsibility is it to set up appropriate boundaries for our children.  These boundaries are meant to keep our kids safe, to protect property, to prevent psychological damage, and to promote respect for others.  Boundaries provide children with a secure framework in which they can grow.  As our kids get older, we allow these boundaries to expand.  Hopefully, by the time we release our children from our care, they will be better prepared to set up their own boundaries.

boundary – The dividing line or location between two areas.

As defined at:

This week we’re talking about establishing appropriate boundaries.  The Supernanny DVD clips this week give some ideas for creating boundaries related to safety, health, and family togetherness.  Kids are not designed to run around without boundaries.  The novel Lord of the Flies by William Golding provides a glimpse into what might happen with our kids if they were left without clear limits.  In this book, several 6 to 12 year olds turn to barbarism when they are stranded without adult supervision on a deserted island.  While this is just a story, it does remind us that we have an important role in our kids’ lives.  We are responsible for setting boundaries for our kids that will keep them safe and will help them grow into responsible adults.

Note to leader: Show the following clips from the Supernanny Season 1 DVD: The Riries Family Episode DVD Disc 2: 0:54-2:38, 3:46-5:18, 6:03-10:15, 11:42-13:10, 16:25-25:45, and 36:54-40:02.  You may choose to show all the clips at once or you may decide to stop the DVD after each clip and discuss the answer to question one or pull out key points as you go.

1.  What observations can you make from the DVD clips that relate to establishing appropriate boundaries?


Different boundaries are required based on the age and development of your child.  When children are toddlers, you may need to set boundaries so they don’t wander into the street or down the stairs.  As they approach preschool and elementary school, kids need to know who they should and shouldn’t talk to – “Don’t talk to strangers.”  As they continue to get older they will need monitoring related to their computer/internet use and their television/movie viewing.  There are many different types of boundaries to consider.

2.  What are some of the boundaries that you have set up for your children?


3.  How do you determine what boundaries to put into place in your home?


Setting limits is another way to look at setting boundaries.  Limits are not a negative thing.  For example, I need to set limits on the amount of food that I consume.  I like ice cream, but if I eat too much ice cream, my cholesterol will get even higher, my weight will increase, and my overall all health will deteriorate.  The notes below provide some interesting things to consider when setting up limits.

Limit Your Limits

Limits must reflect your deeply held values. This conviction is what you draw on every time the limit is broken/tested, and you must enforce it. Children respond to limits that are real priorities for parents. Reduce the number of limits to the ones that really count. Limiting behavior that harms others or is deliberate disobedience is important at any age.

Set Reasonable Limits

What are reasonable limits? Reasonable means limits that allow a child to succeed. Parents are in the best position to determine “reasonable.” Tune in to the child’s individual personality and needs. Some limits are unreasonable because they are not humanly possible. Expecting too much can lower self-esteem and cause stress in your child. The child may become angry with him/herself for failing, or he/she may give up even trying. The child may also become angry and more defiant. Either way, if a child can not be good at succeeding, he/she is going to be tempted to be good at failing.

Clear and Positive

Children know what we expect of them only when we tell them in clear terms. Limits tell children what to do and how well it should be done (the standard). Make sure you have their attention. Children who understand the limits are much more likely to assume responsibility for their actions.


Limits should not change from day-to-day or setting to setting. Inconsistently enforced limits are very confusing to children. Parents should discuss and agree on limits before they are presented to the children so there is a consistent response. This discussion and a consistent response will eliminate the, “well, mom always lets me do that when you aren’t here.” If children receive mixed messages about limits, they will test the limits more often.


Many limits continue from year to year. Expecting children to treat one another’s possessions carefully is a reasonable limit at any age. Other limits should be changed as children grow older. Yet knowing when to make these changes and explaining them to children can be a difficult challenge for parents. Fortunately, the parents’ skills at setting limits improves with practice.


Your children often have wonderful ideas and opinions about limits. By involving them in “limit discussions,” parents are more likely to gain their children’s cooperation in meeting the limit. “Discussions” do not always mean agreement. For some limits, there is no appeal process regardless of the child’s protests.


Explain the “why” behind the limit. Can a child verbalize the reason for the limit? Explanations make sense only if the limits are reasonable, clear, positive, enforceable, and very dear to values and convictions. If children

understand the whys, they are more likely to accept them.


Children are going to “try” the limit, and parents must be willing to stand tough. In testing the limit, children are testing parental commitment to their word. Children want their parents to love them enough to stand up for their deepest beliefs consistently.

Charles A. Smith, Extension specialist from Kansas State University, shares these ideas for responsive discipline from The Discipline Toolbox that might be helpful in practicing the keys to effective limits.

Taken from:

4.  Read the following verses from the Bible.  What do they say about this topic and how can we apply them in our families?

Deuteronomy 28:1-2

1 If you fully obey the LORD your God and carefully follow all his commands I give you today, the LORD your God will set you high above all the nations on earth. 2 All these blessings will come on you and accompany you if you obey the LORD your God.

Philippians 2:3-4

3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, 4 not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.


5.  List one or two things that you will do differently or that you will try as a result of our discussion on establishing appropriate boundaries.


Take Home Activity:  Draw a map of your neighborhood and of your home.  Use different colors to represent places that are safe and places that are off-limits.  Use RED markers or crayons to indicate areas that are completely off-limits.  Use GREEN markers or crayons to indicate areas that are safe.  And use ORANGE markers to indicate areas that require parental support/escort.

For example, you might color the kitchen, bedrooms, and bathrooms with a GREEN marker to indicate that they are safe.  You might color the computer, television, and pantry ORANGE indicating that parental support is required.  Finally, you might color the street or the tool shed RED to show that the kids are not allowed in these areas no matter what.

Allow your kids to get in on the discussion related to this mapping.  Make sure that they feel like contributors to the process.  Help them to understand why certain areas need to be off-limits.

Finally, bring your map to next week’s session.  Have fun!

Note to leader: If time and resources permit, pick up poster board along with red, orange, and green markers to pass out to each family.

Next week’s topic:  Handling Sibling Differences

Looking Ahead:  Week 6 – Purpose for Discipline, Week 7 – Methods of Discipline, Week 8 – Introducing Your Kids to Christ