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Helping my son understand and respect personal boundaries / space.


lailasmum
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My 7 yr old (8 in Feb) constantly invades other people's personal space, climbs over them regardless of whether it hurts them or is uncomfortable for them. Will hug and touch other people's bodies beyond the point that they are comfortable. He doesn't seem to have much sympathy or compassion for others needs in this area and doesn't respect people asking him to stop. He's a very snuggly kid who has always slept better in contact with someone else and will tend to choose to sit really close to someone in a space that's too small, rather than be comfortable in a chair/sofa on his own with plenty of space. How can I help him understand personal space because just explaining it to him is not getting through? 

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Thanks, My 11yr old is sensory defensive but I'd not thought of it in terms of my 7yr old having the opposite issue. I have always thought of it as him being boisterous and not worrying who gets in the way, but the sensory aspect does make sense with some of the behaviours thinking about it. 

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Sensory needs--fill his bucket so to speak

 

Lack of personal space boundaries is a flag for ADHD

 

Redirection. Physically remove him to a starting point. We have a particular set area. It's not time out like the Nanny lady popularized Time Out, but the other kids and adults need to be protected. I had a short code word with my oldest. "ChildName, space." Then if child continues to clamber all over people, boop! Back to the resetting point. We had a heavy blanket there if she wanted it, back before I knew about weighted blankets. Bear hugs absolutely set her off, but they help some kids. I could explain that how much she hated bear hugs were how much other people hated being climbed over. Lots of repetition and reinforcement. I still have to say space!!! now at 12 if she's anxious about something or tired/stressed, but it's more of walking too closely not physically mauling us now. ;)

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It might work better to teach this as "logic" rather than as respect/empathy. There's a fairly simple two-step logic from, "Each person has one body of their own." To, "Each person decides for themselves about their own body."

 

Our conversations sound like, "Whose arm is this one?" (Yours) "How many arms are you in charge of?" (Two) "Which ones?" (These) "Which ones are mine" (Those) "So who is in charge of this arm here?" (You are) "So when I say that pushing on it is not ok with me, that means you have to listen. Do you know why?" (Because it's yours)

 

There's lots of variation, but I've come back to 'whose body part is it?' logic time and again from toddlerhood through pre-teenage years. It doesn't matter how they feel, so I'm not going to try and develop respectful character before I teach bodily autonomy. I'm just going to be clear and concrete enough that there's no argument.

 

(It's also relevant because these things are the basis of all future bodily consent issues in my kids' teenage and young adult future. I want 'my body my rules' to be so deep in their worldview that they will be appalled, offended and angered if they ever meet anyone who acts like they don't know such a basic thing. I want it to be my vocabulary that comes to their defense against people who think that bodies in relationship are shared property.)

 

After you focus on direct touch and get good results, you can add personal space / margins to the logic. (I find teaching behaviours in small successful increments faster overall than teaching all the components of a desired change simultaneously.)

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It might work better to teach this as "logic" rather than as respect/empathy. There's a fairly simple two-step logic from, "Each person has one body of their own." To, "Each person decides for themselves about their own body."

 

Our conversations sound like, "Whose arm is this one?" (Yours) "How many arms are you in charge of?" (Two) "Which ones?" (These) "Which ones are mine" (Those) "So who is in charge of this arm here?" (You are) "So when I say that pushing on it is not ok with me, that means you have to listen. Do you know why?" (Because it's yours)

 

There's lots of variation, but I've come back to 'whose body part is it?' logic time and again from toddlerhood through pre-teenage years. It doesn't matter how they feel, so I'm not going to try and develop respectful character before I teach bodily autonomy. I'm just going to be clear and concrete enough that there's no argument.

 

(It's also relevant because these things are the basis of all future bodily consent issues in my kids' teenage and young adult future. I want 'my body my rules' to be so deep in their worldview that they will be appalled, offended and angered if they ever meet anyone who acts like they don't know such a basic thing. I want it to be my vocabulary that comes to their defense against people who think that bodies in relationship are shared property.)

 

After you focus on direct touch and get good results, you can add personal space / margins to the logic. (I find teaching behaviours in small successful increments faster overall than teaching all the components of a desired change simultaneously.)

 

This is basically what I do with my add kid as well. It's much more difficult with other kids....for example across the playground....and he can get in the add "zone" where he just can't hear me, but at home especially, this is what works. Plus, like Bolt says, it's a great framework to set up.

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It might work better to teach this as "logic" rather than as respect/empathy. There's a fairly simple two-step logic from, "Each person has one body of their own." To, "Each person decides for themselves about their own body."

 

Our conversations sound like, "Whose arm is this one?" (Yours) "How many arms are you in charge of?" (Two) "Which ones?" (These) "Which ones are mine" (Those) "So who is in charge of this arm here?" (You are) "So when I say that pushing on it is not ok with me, that means you have to listen. Do you know why?" (Because it's yours)

 

There's lots of variation, but I've come back to 'whose body part is it?' logic time and again from toddlerhood through pre-teenage years. It doesn't matter how they feel, so I'm not going to try and develop respectful character before I teach bodily autonomy. I'm just going to be clear and concrete enough that there's no argument.

 

(It's also relevant because these things are the basis of all future bodily consent issues in my kids' teenage and young adult future. I want 'my body my rules' to be so deep in their worldview that they will be appalled, offended and angered if they ever meet anyone who acts like they don't know such a basic thing. I want it to be my vocabulary that comes to their defense against people who think that bodies in relationship are shared property.)

 

After you focus on direct touch and get good results, you can add personal space / margins to the logic. (I find teaching behaviours in small successful increments faster overall than teaching all the components of a desired change simultaneously.)

 

Oh. My. Gosh.

 

Brilliant! Genius! I've been struggling to come up with a conversation like this for my DS. 

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