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Boundaries and Freedom: Two Sides of the Same Coin

Updated on July 13, 2017

Boundary Setting in Early Childhood and Beyond:

Boundary setting is an art based on the science of the development of Human Free-Will, 0-15 yrs. Human free-will is not fully developed until the age of fifteen. In fact, humans are learning how to guide themselves toward (their own) true happiness their entire lives. We were not born to be merely obedient and perfect specimens of humanity, but joyful and powerful within our own beings and in our OWN WAYS.

Boundaries are set for the safety of the child, but we should keep in mind that children thrive on liberty. We need to set boundaries in a way that promotes the child's ability to guide his own will.

The child can only follow our direct commands according his will to do so. In the early years, (0-6,) his ability to follow our commands is limited. As guardians, we allow the child to develop his will by facilitating his ability to guide and follow his own will. If we put into his sense of order or sense of reality that he is at all times to follow our directions, we can shut down the child's will. This is not a good thing, since, "The will is to the psyche what the heart is to the body."

We want our children to have strong wills, to have interests and follow intrinsic motivations. If we merely order them around until they're eighteen yrs. or so, how are they to have (be in touch with) free-will and guide it appropriately … toward the direction of their own happiness, which only they can decide about and know?

To explain just a little further: The child cannot follow our commands unless and until it is his will to do so. The apparent obedience in following our commands stems not due to actual obedience, but receptivity to what is done (and not done) in the world around him and the desire to please us. Children love their parents and those caring for them.

This may all seem complicated but when one contemplates the nature of Free-Will, one realizes is it dependent on a condition of liberty for its very existence. Free-will exists only in freedom. But, of course freedom has limits.

As far as setting the boundaries to freedom, we must stand behind our "No!"s. We must be firm, consistent and serious when setting boundaries. The child is motivated by the tones we set as he reads our convictions as to the reality of a situation. The development of human free-will is complete at age fifteen. At this time he is ready to guide his own will. His guardians can breathe a sigh of relief if they have done their jobs properly.

The other aspect to developing free-will is to utilize it! In early childhood, Dr. Maria Montessori put self-teaching activities into the environments she created for her children's schools. What she attempted to do was revolutionary: She institutionalized the home by providing freedom of movement and exploration in an environment which included many different didactic materials to manipulate. These specially designed materials helped the children learn reading, writing and arithmetic on their own. She also included cots for resting when tired and gardens to water and tend. She discovered children would rather teach themselves things than play with the toys in the play area, such as dolls and trucks.

The key to Montessori schools is children teaching themselves in liberty and joy. In so doing, they develop the ability to concentrate as they count/calculate, spell/write and manipulate all the sensorial activities. I would like to see every preschool in America comprehend the wisdom and discoveries of Dr. Maria Montessori, who was way ahead of her time. Can't it be done in OUR TIME in all schools?


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    • Kathryn L Hill profile image

      Kathryn L Hill 2 months ago from LA

      Hi Mizbjabbers.

      Yes, the setting of boundaries is based on providing freedom, not free rein. Its a subtle thing to set boundaries. Very subtle. There is so much to understand about human nature. Its often hard to know where to draw the line, no matter what the age! The school of hard knocks is the only school that teaches us what we need to know. So be it, I guess ... sadly.

    • MizBejabbers profile image

      MizBejabbers 2 months ago

      Good assessment. This is why we need to educate the child and allow them to make their own choices and face the consequences when they get old enough. That is not to say that we shouldn't protect them in certain situations and not give them free rein. I also disagree with the idea that student newspapers in secondary schools should have total freedom of the press. I think that administration should still be allowed to set guidelines for op eds. We need to remember that secondary students are still children and may not always make wise decisions. Let them become adults before they have the freedom to make irresponsible or foolish statements.

    • Kathryn L Hill profile image

      Kathryn L Hill 2 months ago from LA

      … assessments and discoveries. She observed children as a scientist, who determines the stimulus of a specimen. In her close and astute observing, she discovered the Universal Child. In other words, all children are designed to grow according to nature's dictates, and yet having their own unique personalities, motivations and interests. Its pretty amazing.

      Child Development should really be called Human Development and then maybe it would be taken a little more seriously. Montessori methods and philosophies/ideologies are not encouraged in universities. They should be. Thank You, Elijah

      Eric, Thank You for commenting and coming along here. Its always great to hear form you. I read your posts and enjoy them so much. I appreciate your input here and there!

      The child's ability to concentrate is the great result with Montessori methods.

    • The0NatureBoy profile image

      Elijah A Alexander Jr 2 months ago from Washington DC


      Very well said and probably the only way one can teach a child their boundaries under our social standard of living. However, to really direct a child into realizing their limits man would have to return to ecological living in the self-reproducing environment and we would have redevelop the abilities man-en-mass lost during the Bible's great flood metaphor. Telepathy, teleportation are two of the many abilities needed to really do it how it would be done during environmental living.

      When we understand the metaphor of creation while comparing man to the other life types we would know the only things a child would have to be aware of are environmental things. Because we have so many man made dangers without telepathy abilities to give children the feeling of being guided from within our attachment to our children makes us over protective even to the point of punishing them for disobedience. Thus, we set unnecessary boundaries on our children.

      In the early 1980s I experienced a child who had been so protected he was even afraid to walk through pigeons and would stand and cry until someone shooed then away. His mother asked me to play with him but everything I wanted his to do he was afraid of so I would take him to the playground for him to play with other children. He even wanted me to be right there with him to protect him but eventually he began to play with other children.

      One day I got on a platform slide and he wanted to follow me so I bid him to come. He asked for help but I refused so he began climbing up about three steps before beginning to cry which I allowed him and refused the different mothers to help him. After an extended period of time he finally climbed up very happy with himself and wanted to go down the slide. after Refused to help him he went down and praised himself so I told him I knew he could. That happened as the year was coming close to winter.

      The next spiring when the mother brought him out he was almost a boundless child, running into pigeons to see them scatter, climbing things he had been afraid to climb the year before and other things. One in particular was he walked over and petted a dog the master said had never allowed any child to pet it, the master couldn't believe it but didn't stop him.

      Something similar had happened to me when about 6 months old, I was left a rails up baby bed asleep and awoke to an empty house and cried, it seemed to me, for a long time at the top of my voice when a b bodiless voice said "you may be content, no one is coming to get you" and I did. That caused me to deny the limited imposed on me by my parents' teachings. It is my belief that if we lived environmentally we would be shown our limitations from within ourselves so I believe Dr. Maria Montessori is very correct in her assessment.

    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 2 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      So cool. I studied the methods and theories from Montessori and while only one of my children attended one I try to incorporate the principals in raising my children. We have had and have so much fun learning. Lincoln once wrote "obedience of the law is the greatest freedom". Norms are safe places from which we can flower and bloom outside the norms.

      Thanks for reminding me of some basic truths.