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Giving Kids a Safety Voice and a Manners Voice - Equipping Kids to Guard Their Boundaries

Providing PROTECTIVE LOVE to our children is critical at every age in answering one of the longings of their hearts. They need to know they are worth protecting. This includes EQUIPPING our children with life skills for protecting themselves as well. One area that we must equip our children is regarding establishing boundaries.



Protecting Love includes protecting children from unregulated strong emotions (in themselves or in anyone around them). This means equipping yourself and your children with healthy emotion management skills as well as conflict resolution skills. It also includes equipping your older children and teens with the ability to set boundaries in order to prevent other people's emotions from infringing on your children's lives.


We want to teach our children to be compassionate and helpful, but not to be ruled by the situations that others are going through. It can be easy to be sucked into other people's drama or suffering to a degree that becomes unhealthy for the one giving help.


One tool you can use to equip your younger children how to protect their boundaries is by teaching them the difference between a Manners Voice and a Safety Voice.


Teaching a manners voice and a safety voice helps a child to understand that different situations call for different types of interaction. If we help children practice both types of voices, we are giving them an important safety tool. Teaching two contrasting voices helps them better comprehend the need for a safety voice and when to apply it. A manners voice is great to use with anyone anytime, unless we feel uncomfortable, unsafe, if boundaries are being challenged, or if we need to protect ourselves or others. Then, it is time to use our safety voice.


Give Your Child Two Voices to Practice


Safety Voice – A child needs to practice an authoritative voice for some safety situations. This is a time for being direct and confident. This is not a time for a kind voice or a smile.

I often told my kids, "Manners matter unless it's a safety issue. Then manners don't matter. Safety before Manners."

To teach a safety voice to your children, you can tell them, "A safety voice is serious, stern, and straight forward. Show confidence in your body – chin up, shoulders back with eye contact. It is also a time for a confident voice – volume up and clear words. Don't say, 'please' or 'Would you…?' A safety voice is for stating clear boundaries for yourself or others."

If your child is with friends and they are being unkind to another child or they're being unsafe, your child needs to be prepared with a safety voice.

If they want to show your child their phone screen, if they want your child to participate in taking something that doesn't belong to them or is unlawful, these would be times for your child to use a safety voice.

If someone tries to touch your child in an unsafe or uncomfortable way or wants to see a swimsuit area, this is a time for a safety voice.

Anything that makes your child feel uncomfortable or crosses any line spiritually, physically, mentally, or socially, is a time to use a safety voice.

Your child could practice saying, "Don't tickle me." "Don't touch me." "Step back." "Play kindly or I'm done playing." "Don't talk unkindly or I'm done here." "I'm not participating if you're not being safe." "It's not funny to tease or bully others." "I don't steal." "I will not spend time with people who choose to – steal, bully, swear, are unkind, lie, cheat, smoke, do drugs, drink, keep secrets from parents, skip school, etc."

Two important safety words are, "no" and "stop." I frequently reminded my children, "No means no. and Stop means stop." These two words are not for joking around. "If someone else says, 'No,' or 'Stop,' then you honor their words even if they sound like they are joking or are smiling. No always means no. Stop always means stop, whether I say it, you say it, or someone else says it, we will always honor those words."

Be sure to also instruct your child that whenever there's a situation that feels unsafe or uncomfortable to tell you as soon as possible, "You will not be in trouble. In fact, I will hug you, and be so glad that you told me."

Do role play regularly about your child's safety voice in order for safe actions to be chosen in a stressful moment. You can role play without making it scary. The goal is practicing the safety voice and telling you right away when something or someone has been unsafe or uncomfortable.


Manners Voice – A child needs to practice a manners voice also.

We use a manners voice to thank someone, to ask a favor of someone, to give a compliment, to ask a question, to make a suggestion.

A manners voice is used when we meet someone new or when we greet someone. We say, "Hello. Nice to meet you" or "Hi. How are you today?"

We can use a manners voice when we are playing with a friend, answering the phone, or talking to a family member too.

The ingredients of a manners voice include a smile, a cheerful tone, and good eye contact.


Using a manners voice when we talk to someone is like giving a gift of kindness. It is not that every interaction must be joyful and full of smiles; it's totally fine to tell your friend or family member that you are feeling sad, mad, scared, or tired. We don't always have to be happy. However, we should seek to be a blessing to others often. We can grow the habit of caring about others just as we also want them to care for us. Part of caring, is kindness and we can give the gift of kindness and joy with the type of voice we use.


*Do you have any boundary rules for your children/teens?


*Do you have any principles you've taught your kids about guarding themselves from being taken in by other's emotions?


*What do you do to help your children establish emotional/mental/social/spiritual boundaries?


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