It’s never too late to start setting boundaries

Setting Boundaries with Kids

Setting boundaries for grown kids too

by Amy Egan

Many times I have gotten the question, “Is it ever too late to start setting boundaries with children?” Parents wonder if they have missed the boat by the time their kids are tweens or teens. The truth is that it is never too late to set boundaries.  Even if a parent has an adult child that is disrespectful, manipulative or takes advantage of them, the best time to begin setting and enforcing limits is this very moment!

We don’t do our kids any favors by putting up with that stuff when they are 2, 10 or 30. Anytime a child can mistreat a parent, the parent loses – and so does the child, in a very big way.

Accountability for Adult Kids

I have known adults who for one reason or another, were not held accountable by their parents while growing up. (Usually the parent perceived a weakness in the child, felt guilty over something or just detested conflict and so could not stomach having to say ‘no’ or delivering consequences.) I can tell you this… do not just grow out of this behavior. There really are many, many adults in this world who never grow out of poor behavior habits and are still the pain-in-the-butt family members, to this day.

Kids need strong parents. Not the screamers or controllers. Those traits actually reveal weakness. I mean the kind of parent that likes themselves enough not to put up with disrespectful, nasty behavior from their kids. The kind of parent that is loving, calm, firm, sets boundaries and follows through with consequences when those boundaries are broken. The kind of parent that doesn’t feel sorry for the child or gives in because the parent hates to see the child be sad or disappointed.

How are you Perpetuating the Behavior?

If you are reading this and have a grown or nearly grown child that lives irresponsibly or treats you in a way that is disrespectful or manipulative, look at what you are doing to perpetuate the behavior. Do you financially support the child? Do you make sure they don’t have to suffer life’s consequences? Do you spend time with this son or daughter even though they are not kind to you or are kind to you only when they want something? If the answer is yes to any of these questions, it is almost a guarantee that your child has very little self-esteem.  When a child is able to mistreat an adult, it leads to poor self-image.

If there is any hope for this grown child to actually grow up, you must let them fall, fail.  It will not be easy on you unless you get some assistance along the way with counseling, books on co-dependency or co-dependency support groups. But consider life the way it is with this child and imagine it never getting any better, and most likely getting worse. When you release the child to grow, up you give them the chance (once they have realized you are truly not going to save them), to pick themselves up by the boot straps and make the changes they need to make in order to operate in the world. You can give them loving support without saving them. It is time for them to save themselves.  And it is never, ever too late to set boundaries.

Amy Egan - Ask Amy Column - North Texas KidsAmy Egan is a parenting consultant and life coach. She coaches privately, loves to speak to parent organizations and hosts several weekly life coaching groups for women and moms. If you are interested in private or group coaching contact Amy at or Like her parenting page on Facebook. Amy Egan – Texas Parenting.


One thought on “It’s never too late to start setting boundaries

  1. Wonderful advice Amy!! Thank you. I’ve struggled a bit with boundaries for my youngest son who is 12. I had always made allowances because he has some learning issues. This past year I really started setting stricter boundaries and he has matured so much! I also have family members who have adult children who treat them exactly as you are describing here, using their parents and depending on them for financial bailouts, a place to live, addictive disorders you name it! I will not let my children fall into that! I love them with all my heart but they will become independent, socially responsible adults from the “tough love” they may require today!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *