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Say what's right for you versus what's wrong with someone else


Sharing, taking turns and being kind are important to stress when you are preparing a child for preschool. This was the conversation my friends were having with their 3-year-old.

When his dad picked him up at the end of the first day and asked how it had gone, his young son replied, “Well, I guess it was okay, but Sally yelled at me.”

His dad inquired what he had done when Sally yelled at him. “I told her, you yell at me, you play alone.”

The 3-year-old did not tell her she was bad or wrong to yell, or he would never play with her again, or that he was going to tell the teacher. He simply let her know if she was going to be yelling, he’d find someplace else to play.

That is what it means to stand up for yourself. It is not telling the other person what is wrong with them, it is simply saying what is right for you.

This is what we call setting a boundary. A boundary serves the same purpose as a car air bag, the purpose of which is to provide the occupant protection and restraint during a crash. In the same way, a boundary protects us from discomfort, wrong choices, even harm.

If you are in the habit of telling people what they want to hear, and you begin to say no, at first they will probably not pay attention or believe you. If they are used to you taking care of their feelings, their problems, their responsibilities, they may start mumbling and murmuring.

The flack will gradually stop if you continue calmly and matter-of-factly, and the result will be a life with less frustration and more peace.

Charlotte Lankard is a licensed marriage and family therapist in private practice. Contact her at