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The Art of Setting Boundaries

EducationWorld is pleased to present this professional development resource shared by Dr. Jane Bluestein, an expert in relationship-building, positive school climate and effective instruction.

Boundaries are important in the classroom. They help maintain respectful behavior and keep students on task. Good boundaries offer structure and limits while offering students certain freedoms and encouragement with that structure. Skilled educators know that effective boundaries can help them avoid the frustrations likely in more coercive, win-lose approaches.

Relationship-building expert Dr. Jane Bluestein suggests several important strategies to keep in mind when setting student boundaries. For example:

State boundaries positively, as promises rather than threats: “You can watch the movie if your seatwork is done by 2:00,” rather than, “You’re not watching the movie if your seatwork isn’t done by 2:00.”

This simple shift in language emphasizes the positive consequence of the student's cooperation, which is far more likely to generate desired behavior than, say, a threat or command. Stating a boundary with this positive focus helps prevent conflict and reminds students that they have a degree of autonomy in creating the outcomes they desire.

For more helpful tips, check out the handout Nine Things to Remember When Setting a Boundary.

The material on the handout was adapted from The Parent's Little Book of Lists: Do's and Don'ts of Effective Parenting (Deerfield Beach, FL: Health Communications, Inc., 1997). These concepts are explored in greater detail in The Win-Win Classroom (Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Publishing, 2008).

Related resources

Also from Dr. Bluestein:
Is Your School Emotionally Safe?
Accommodating Student Sensory Differences
Tips for Positive Parent Interaction

About Dr. Bluestein

Dr. Jane Bluestein is a speaker, trainer and specialist in programs and resources related to relationship building, effective instruction and personal development.

She is an award-winning author whose books include Creating Emotionally Safe Schools, High School’s Not Forever, 21st Century Discipline, The Win-Win Classroom and many others. In addition, she has appeared on CNN, National Public Radio and "The Oprah Winfrey Show."

Dr. Bluestein, formerly a classroom teacher, crisis-intervention counselor and teacher training program coordinator, currently heads Instructional Support Services, Inc., a consulting and resource firm in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Visit her Web site to access free resources, order books, read her blog and more.


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