Teaching boundary setting and repair conversations

Portrait, teacher with students learning in classroom. Education, scholarship and happy, proud and young female educator with children ready for studying or knowledge in middle school.

As educators, we teach so much more than algebra and spelling to our students. Crucial life skills, such as self-regulation, repairing harm, and setting healthy boundaries to prevent harm, are just a few of the life lessons we can provide for our students. Teaching the importance of boundaries, how to communicate your needs, and how to receive boundary setting are all foundational building blocks for healthy interpersonal relationships. Unfortunately, many of us did not have a blueprint in our childhood about boundary setting and repair conversations. Here are some tips for integrating preventative interpersonal relationship skills into your classroom culture. 


Model Boundary Setting 

Children learn from what we do, not from what we say. Modeling setting healthy boundaries in the classroom can be an extremely effective way for young people to learn what communicating boundaries looks like in action.


Integrate Boundary Setting Practice into Your Day 

Setting boundaries in today’s society is an enormous cultural shift and takes lots of practice. We are socialized to be available for our students around the clock, which is not sustainable and can lead to burnout.

  • Practicing boundary setting as described in this article from the Harvard Business Publishing Inspiring Minds website.
  • Communicating what a boundary isand setting up a plan for sharing when our boundaries are violated are essential building blocks, according to an article from the Child Mind Institute.


Introduce A Bug and A Wish 

There are many resources for teaching boundary-setting, and ‘a bug and a wish’ is an excellent option for students of all ages. This exercise not only teaches young people how to set boundaries, but also how to receive when someone else sets a boundary with you.

Young people grasp this idea easily when it is broken down visually, like with a magic wand and a bug in this particular lesson.

  • Here’s a website with instructions to help you make a few easy tools for practicing a bug and a wish.


Teach and Model How to Repair Harm 

As much as we can try to prevent conflict by teaching and modeling boundaries, conflict is inevitable. When it does happen, we can teach and model ways to have a repair conversation. Many social emotional learning curriculums have lessons on repair, and most repair conversations include regulation, recognizing your part in the problem, reconciling, and resolving.


Learning these skills – boundary setting and repair conversations – early on will have a profound impact on your students’ lives. Teaching and modeling these foundational interpersonal skills with students will set them up for healthy relationships of all kinds.