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Saying no in a way that visitors will listen and respect: The 5 building Blocks to better boundaries

Boundaries are hard for a lot of people–so trying to implement them after just having a baby and your sleep is all over the place–that equals extra hard. Or at least it was way prior to landing on this post. I want you to have some building blocks to better boundaries that will make you and your guests feel better. 

I’ve kept the language and examples for newborn parents (because they’re typically new to this whole boundary thing with their own parents). But the reality is that these boundary building blocks can be just as important in all your relationships (including toddler parents!)

Understand your Why.

How many times have you stated your boundary and the person you’re talking to gets offended? In the past you may have felt bad or guilty that you’ve caused that person some pain. Now you find yourself in some emotional limbo of enforcing your boundary and making the person feel better. BUT–I’m here to give you permission to let that go!

Good-bye to taking responsibility for other people’s feelings!

You are not responsible for making other people feel better. This is a very important piece to setting boundaries, so I’ll say it again to help make this stick. You are not responsible to make them feel better. When you say no, or tell them something that upsets them. The only thing you are responsible for is being respectful (note, that is NOT the same as soothing their feelings), keeping  your baby healthy, yourself well and safe, and being an advocate for your baby who can’t speak for themselves.

Know the reason behind your “no”.

Let’s say as the baby’s parents, you feel that it’s in the baby’s best interest not to be kissed by family members. It’s your right and responsibility to make every effort to keep the baby safe and healthy. So if your parents think your boundary is “silly” or “nonsense” (because we both know that’s common for grandparents to think), their feelings don’t actually matter. 

You’re responsible to be kind and respectful. Yes–but it doesn’t mean that you have to say yes to things that you don’t feel comfortable with. You as parents have already chosen this boundary and determined it’s right for your family.

Say “No.”

Many times when we try to implement a new boundary with a person–we’ll get push back. That person will think their logic is so sound that it will persuade us to change our minds. Well that doesn’t mean you have to change your boundary–on the contrary. It’s time to follow through and stick with it (this helps them realize its actually a boundary).  If you are a person who shies away from standing your ground on boundaries–take this as permission to say, “No.” proudly. Remember this–you standing your ground means that you are…

  • Advocating for your baby.
  • Enforcing boundaries you and your partner believe are important.
  • Standing up for yourself (because you are worthy of respect and so are your boundaries)

Remember: The person doesn’t have to like or agree with your boundary. You don’t have to explain it or convince them to agree. They just need to respect them. People are allowed to state their feelings–but those feelings don’t have to change how you enforce your boundaries. And know that you’re not responsible for how they feel when you say no. 

Be Specific.

This is a tip to help make it easier for people to actually be respectful of when you say no. Because let’s be honest–not all humans are running around the world purposely trying to violate boundary lines. Most of the time–boundary line crossings are from confusion, or misinterpretation of vague statements. Because ultimately the person didn’t actually know what your expectations were of them.

Be clear on your expectations.

What point are you really trying to get across? It’s important to be as specific as possible so that people can actually respect your actual boundary. When you say, “Don’t kiss my baby.”  Do you mean…

  • don’t kiss them anywhere, ever?
  • you cannot kiss them on their face?
  • Are you okay with kissing them on their head or their feet?
  • Maybe you mean only while they’re under a certain age?

See what I mean–there are a lot of different directions that this simple direction could actually go.  So by being clear about what it is you are saying “no” to, you will avoid frustration and increase the likelihood that your boundaries will be respected.  Sometimes when we say, “No kissing the baby.”, What people hear is, “I will never be able to kiss this baby ever.” As a grandparent, thinking that you’ll never be able to kiss your grandchild, is, understandably, alarming. Being clear and managing their expectations, can go a long way in making sure they do what you want and also reducing the panic and emotional reaction. 

So if you mean right now, in this certain period of time, tell them that. If you mean you don’t want kisses on their face, tell them that. Get clear on what your expectations of people truly are and communicate them very clearly so the people in your life can respect them.

Giving them a Yes.

Sometimes a play on words can be a huge help to having your boundaries respected. The word “no” can be triggering to a lot of people and prevent them from hearing anything past that “no”. Instead of saying “no, you cannot kiss my baby.” you can instead say, “Of course-you can kiss my baby on the feet or hands.” Or “Today we’re only doing hugs. Would you like to hold her?” Whatever it is that you do allow in terms of connecting with your baby, focus their attention there. 

If you have rules, maybe you want them to wash their hands or wear a mask before they hold your baby. Let them know what that is. We want to avoid leaving them confused and frustrated with what you would like them to do. And by communicating that to them and letting them know what you expect and what you want, is going to make it easier for them to do what it is that you want from them. 

Share your dilemma.

So why don’t you want them to kiss your baby because you’re worried about them getting sick, right? at the end of the day you’re trying to look out for their health and well being. Ultimately your visitors, your helpers, your family–they want the exact same thing for your baby, too. They’re just really excited to meet them. They’re really excited to show them their love. 

Sharing your concerns and your reasoning, “I am asking for people to avoid kissing them because I want to make sure that we minimize any chance of them getting sick. So I would like you to avoid kissing them on their face.”  It’s okay to share that with them. And just be that reminder. Because sometimes people get really excited about meeting this new baby and touching them and holding them and hugging them that they might forget. And it’s okay to redirect that attention and let them know what you would like. Remember, you’re on the same team, but sometimes people need those reminders and need to hear what your reason is. 

Okay–those are your building blocks to better boundaries. We hope you’ve found them helpful as you navigate your parenting journey. If this was your first time reading one of our posts, welcome! And if you’ve been a long time lurker–we see you too! Be sure to join our email list and we’ll shoot you a newsletter whenever a new blog post is up. And as always our courses and 1:1 support are always available if you’re ready to make a change in your sleep journey. 

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