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respecting personal boundaries

post #1 of 7
Thread Starter 

Looking for gentle and effective ways to encourage my soon to be 4 year old son to respect peoples personal space. He is very forward and friendly but does not understand that not everyone wants him up in their space. Just yesterday at the library he was grabbing other kids shirts with the puppets and grabbing at books in other kids hands to see what they were planning to read. He practically climbed right into the lap of another mother reading her kids a book. I am there and available to him the whole time with books to offer and reminders to be gentle and give others their space but he doesn't seem to get it. It's like he can't tell he's making the other kid/person uncomfortable. How do I redirect without making him feel bad?

post #2 of 7

This is something we always had to deal with, and still do, to some extent because we came to realize that our son has some kind of sensory-seeking tendencies (i.e. Sensory Processing Disorder or something like it). Much DID improve with age, as his ability to have impulse control has improved. But we still wrestle with it a bit here at home. It seems that there isn't a single emotion that he doesn't want to express with his hands or body!


The reason I bring it up is to present the idea that if your DS is one of those kids with a sensory issue, he may not at the moment be ABLE to not-do these things. It's important to remember that.


Becky Bailey, who has Conscious Discipline webinars which are just GREAT archived on her web site, says to do something like:

--describe what you see

--tell him the limit

--tell him what he CAN do


i.e. "You wanted the book. We may not grab the book from others. When you want the book, say 'May I have the book." It's gentle, it helps the child to see how what he was trying to accomplish (by your non judgemental description of what you saw) can be accomplished in a different way.


But frankly, there were many places I just could not take my son for a while because he just could NOT keep his hands off others under certain circumstances. Like preschool. We are homeschoolers but we had put him in because we thought it would be fun for him. But when other kids pushed him, he just didn't have it in him to hold back. Or when he wanted to join in play, he'd push or grab, because he did not know how to join in their play. We wanted him to learn, but because it involved him or others possibly getting hurt in the process, we had to just not bring him any more. Now of course he is 9 and he's over it.

post #3 of 7
Thread Starter 


thanks for the response and the suggested resource.

I truly don't believe my son has Sensory Processing Disorder. I read over some information about it after reading your post and he doesn't seem to fit any of the criteria. 

I think he's just trying to make friends and doesn't understand that not everyone is so friendly and forward. 

I guess when he starts school in the fall he'll work it out?

I just feel bad for him because I don't want him to feel rejected by other kids, but he's coming on a little strong :/

He wasn't grabbing at their shirts trying to be mean, he was being playful and he wasn't trying to take the other kids books, he just wanted to see what they had picked to read- he just wanted to look. But the other kids were looking at him kinda snotty and turning/walking away from him. 

He went right up to one little girl and introduced himself "Hi, my name's..... what's your name?" She ignored him and shrugged away. And this has happened on many occasions. I just get nervous, not that something is wrong with him, but that he'll have a hard time making friends because others kids seem to be intimidated.

Thanks again for your help

Maybe we'll just have to try to be more involved with play groups and see how it goes when he starts school....

post #4 of 7

I think that there are things you can do to help him learn these skills.

It sounds like there are a few areas you are concern about. For personal space you can teach him the "cultural standard" of an arm's length away from strangers and  "rules" about not grabbing etc.

You can help him develop emotional intelligence (there are lots of books on this) by helping him recognize cues and emotions from others, problem solving and compromise. These skills will give him a healthy framework for relationships, and help him with friendship skills.  Gottman's books are good and I got some good strategies from Raising a Thinking Child.


You can do a lot of role playing and coaching before you head into situations where he might get over excited by others (ie your library situation). Give him the words to ask about playing, some strategies for setting up inviting games, remembering how to be a good friend (no grabbing, lots of sharing etc).  You can also stay connected. You may need to be more than just available - you might need to be watching him for cues and help him to recenter by calling him over for a quick cuddle and a reminder of the things you talked about.




Edited by Callimom - 3/11/12 at 8:29pm
post #5 of 7

Hi, my son has the same problems. i read him this book that we found at the library. It really helped.





post #6 of 7
Thread Starter 


I got the book you suggested. We love it and I think it will really help him out. Thanks for the suggestion.

I noticed that the author wrote the book for her son who has Aspergers. 

I couldn't help but wonder if your son has autism or some sort of SPD. 

How did you come across the book?

Some days are so wonderful for us and I think "there is absolutely no way this kid has a problem." and other days....I think "maybe we should have him checked..." 

I think I'm just a paranoid mom but I can't help but wonder...

Thanks again.

post #7 of 7

Hi, glad you enjoyed the book. My son will be 4 in June. When he was younger, he had tons of allergies, colic, reflux and didnt sleep. As he grew, he developed a quirkiness with certain things such as not liking certain clothes and screaming like someone was hurting him while having his hair washed.  I noticed he had sensory issues and we got a diagnosis for SPD. Since then, we suspect my son has Aspergers and also have had some professional opinions as well, but we are still trying to get a formal diagnosis.


I'm not sure I understand Aspergers all that much, but the ladies over at the special needs forum are very informed.


I think I found the book in the library while I was looking for help for my son with social skills. He has a problem with making friends because he needs alot of attention and gets reallllly excited when he sees potential playmates.


I would have him checked. It cant hurt, and at least it will calm your worries. Go with your gut.


Hugs - it can be hard to raise a needy child. I hope you get some good advice.



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