Below are some suggestions for developing boundaries:
1) Help the person identify areas of his or her life that show a lack of boundaries.
2) Help the person explore the reason for the lack of boundaries (eg are they afraid they will be disliked of rejected if they have boundaries?).
3) Have the persons build relationships with persons who have strong boundaries, and who will encourage the person to set their own.
4) Help the person to identify how successful and caring persons always have strong boundaries.
5) Show the person how even Christ had strong boundaries.
6) Have the person take ownership of their own problems, and do not allow them to play the victim or blame others. (Eg, it is not permissible for the client to say Im going broke because Johnny keeps turning up the thermostat. The real reason the client is going broke is because he / she does not have a firm boundary to stop Johnny from turning up the thermostat ).
7) Help the persons to set limits and establish consequences with persons who are pushing, manipulating, controlling, or otherwise boundary breaking.
8) Teach the person it is still good to give freely and even sacrificially (at times) to persons who genuinely need help. Having boundaries does not mean one lacks grace, mercy or charity.
The Anatomy of a Boundary
Boundaries have a simple anatomy: there are two basic parts to a boundary. The first involves setting the boundary and is called the If You part. The second is the consequence and defense of the boundary it is called the Then I part.
The if you part is a description of an unacceptable transgression. It describes the specific boundary, and how it should not be crossed. For example, if a persons boundary concerns another person taking his or her car without permission, the if you statement might be: If you take my car without permission from me.
The I will part of a boundary details the action one will take to protect the boundary. For example, using the scenario of the car, the I will statement may sound like: I will report that my car was stolen to the police, and then I will press charges against you.
(Sound harsh? It's not! If one person is taking another person's car without permission, they are breaking the law and should be held accountable for it. Stealing from friends and family is still stealing. Of course, the person who has a habit of taking the other persons car should be well informed of the boundary. Imagine borrowing someone's car, thinking they were okay with it, and then being arrested! Hence, there is a need to have ones boundaries clearly communicated to others.)
Other examples include:
If you are late for our date, I will not go out with you.
If you hit me, I will call the police, and get a restraining order against you.
If you yell, I will stop talking to you.
If you neglect to submit your homework, I will fail you.
It is not enough only to set boundaries, it is necessary to enforce them. The worst thing a person can do is to set a boundary, and then not carry out their enforcement strategy. If a person does not respect their own boundaries, why should anyone else?
Sometimes persons are not ready to set boundaries. For example, if a person wants to set boundaries in a relationship, but is not willing to leave the relationship, do not have that person set I will leave the relationship as a consequence. The I will consequence should be something they are willing to enforce, such as: I will leave the house, and call you the next day to discuss the problem. Setting boundaries is not about making threats. It is about respecting and caring for one's own self. Some persons can get too rigid with their boundaries. Consider the person who set the boundary: If you say something I do not like, I will yell at you and insult you. Obviously, not all boundaries are good ones. Persons should consider the ways in which their boundaries could hurt others (and themselves). Psychologist Telephone can help you out.