Tag Archives: boundaries

The Cognitive Parent: Parshat Matot-Maasay & Teaching Boundaries

We all want the best for our children. We want them to grow into adulthood filled with happiness, health, and accomplishment. 

To do that we must teach them about boundaries. 

That’s the lesson we learn in this week’s parsha when we read about the boundaries of the Land Of Israel (you can read about them here http://goo.gl/VfjGZr). 

The Land Of Israel is a magical place; when we follow the rules the Land yields unparalleled treasures. This mysterious power however only exists within the boundaries set by God. Inside those boundaries: boundless potential. Outside those boundaries: nothing special. 

The same applies to each of us: within the boundaries of self respect and decency we can access our potential. If we violate our boundaries or violate the boundaries of others we fritter away our power. 

​So how do we teach our children boundaries? Here are a few ways that have worked for me:

1) Teach right from wrong and live it! Life is complex. Each of us needs to know ​what’s in and what’s out. Our kids need to know that too. As their parents, we are their most important teachers. 

2) Teach them that it’s okay to say no. If there is anything that the Facebook generation needs to know is that ‘no’ is a good thing. While we all grew up with social pressure, kids today seem to be under so much more. That’s why they need you to tell them that they can say no to unwanted requests for friendships and activities that violate their values and goals. They need to know that they can turn to you for support especially when their no is met with derision.

3) Walk the walk but with compassion. Our kids look to us for examples of how to live their lives. We are their most important living teachers. So when our kids observe us setting boundaries they see how to live. But it’s also vital to teach with compassion: when we angrily set limits with our kids they feel rejected, When we set those same limits out of compassion (such as by saying, ‘I love you too much to let you do that’) they may not thank us right then but they will know that we love them and expect them to grow into strong, upstanding people. 

That’s it for now! Shabbat Shalom!


Rabbi Dr. Josh Mark, PhD is a psychologist and psychotherapist in Jerusalem with 24 years experience. He specializes in cognitive therapy and works extensively with teens and young adults on difficulties with depression, anxiety, eating disorders, addictions, psychological trauma, and interpersonal conflict. He has written extensively on recovery from depression and borderline personality disorder. He is licensed in the State Of Israel. You can read more about him and his work at his website, jewishmind.org