Boundaries Can Be Tricky

It is important to recognize that boundary setting. If done in the spirit of Gentle Teaching, it is about teaching others how to love and treat themselves and others. Both the support person and the individual supported have their own personal boundaries they bring to a relationship. As supports and leaders we need to ensure that the individual’s boundaries are understood. There are times where we seek to decrease the boundaries of the people we support. If their boundaries are due to fear, current or previous trauma, or negative emotions, we need to ensure they feel safe and loved by us until the time is right to stretch. There are other times where we need to teach the other person how to set their own healthy boundaries.

We need to explore our own and other team member’s motivation for establishing boundaries with the person we support. Questions that should be asked include:

  • Is it to keep the individual/others safe?
  • Is it to increase the chances that their day is more successful?
  • Is it going to increase their quality of life?
  • Will the individual derive a sense of consistency/reliability from this?

If we are setting a boundary out of our own fear or discomfort this is not a boundary established for the others benefit or safety needs, but to decrease our own anxiety. This boundary will never be able to contain the spirit of Gentle Teaching. It is crucial to be able to identify and acknowledge our fear, and then question ourselves as to how we can change our approach instead of placing a demand on the other person. Because boundary setting can be tricky, we need to fully understand the person with whom you are setting the boundary. It is important to know whether you need to establish a positive relationship first and then establish boundaries – or is it important to have the boundary established at the start of the relationship? Know the individual’s history, in particular their trauma history. There may have been boundaries established in the past that have sent this person into crisis or remind them of past suffering.

There are instances where not having defined boundaries can lead to:

  • Individuals not being given appropriate or helpful support. This could effect their relationships with support people.
  • Individual may feel betrayed, abandoned, and not supported.
  • Support person and individual may be emotionally/physically traumatized or put in danger.
  • Community members may be at risk.

What potential effects could there be if a boundary that has been established, which has had a positive impact on the individuals well being and the relationship with their support person, is not being held to by one or more support person?

  • This can cause havoc with the individual’s sense of safety.
  • The individual can experience a sense of uncertainty with the support person, which can be detrimental to other relationships between the individual and others.
  • It may increase frustration and pit support people against each other.

It is very important to note that Gentle Teaching does not dictate what the boundary is, but rather how we use our tools (words, presence, eyes and touch) when communicating with the individual. Gentle Teaching requires us to have a non judgmental attitude while standing firm on boundaries. There will be instances of testing even in positive, loving relationships with well established, healthy boundaries. Please bear in mind that this is human nature and it is our task as Gentle Teachers to support others through outcomes with dignity and respect.

– Heather Foster, Home Supports Coordinator

Gentle Teaching isn’t about trying to change behaviour…

Through my 3 and a half years of experience with COR and the philosophy of Gentle Teaching, I have attained a wealth of knowledge and an everlasting impact on my life. When I first started with COR, just like most people, I was a bit skeptical of the whole ideology of unconditional love. In latent terms, I perceived it as ‘give them whatever they want’ or ‘they can do whatever they want without consequences’. At the time, I failed to realize it was so much more than that. The whole basis of Gentle Teaching isn’t trying to change the individual’s behaviour, but rather changing our approach on how we serve the individuals.

My ability to use Gentle Teaching had never really been challenged until I began supporting at a new home and more specifically supporting one individual at that home. When I began, to be 100 percent honest, I was quite nervous. I had heard all the stories that this was the hardest team to support on. To my surprise, it really wasn’t! I got off to a good start with two of the guys. The only one I hadn’t connected with was one of the guys. Every time I would enter his space or try to interact with him, he would completely shut me down. This really bugged me personally. I am the type of person who really likes to get along with everybody, and at times, will over step boundaries to be liked by that person. This happened one day when I was supporting him. I came in that day with what I thought was a solid game plan. I was going to force myself to stay with him, we were really going to joke around and have an awesome time together. I also had the idea to take him to a Rider practice that day thinking it was going to be an amazing experience. I was completely wrong. Sure, he enjoyed the idea of going to Rider practice and seeing all his favourite players, but he still didn’t feel safe around me. I struggled to interpret what he was saying numerous times throughout the day and it led to numerous negative moments, the worst being at the Rider practice where he hit me. After that day, I came to realize that by forcing myself to be in his space, I had removed one of the most fundamental and most important pillars of Gentle Teaching; feeling safe.

They have taught me if I adjust how I provide care and unconditionally love them, rather than force them to be who they are not, that they will reciprocate it back in their way

In order to fix this, I needed to change how I provided care, while also trying to encompass the tools of Gentle Teaching to build the four pillars. For the next couple of months, I took a step back and really focused on observing, rather than forcing myself into situations for my own personal reasons. I was selective and patient in choosing the times that were appropriate to help strengthen his sense of feeling safe around me. Most of these interactions were focused around watching sports games or going out to grab a drink from 7/11. I tried keeping the interactions short and consistent allowing him to become comfortable around me. As time passed, I was able to get him to feel safe by changing how I provided for him. Once I had the sense of feeling safe around me, the other three pillars (feeling loved, feel loving towards others, and feeling engaged) came much more naturally.

Through my experience with all the individuals I support, they have had an everlasting impact on my life. They have taught me if I adjust how I provide care and unconditionally love them, rather than force them to be who they are not, that they will reciprocate it back in their way.


Brydon, COR Family Member

Gentle Teaching has inspired me to become a better person

The way I maintain a culture of gentleness at COR is simply being friends with the individuals I serve. When I am supporting, I look at myself as a guest in a friend’s house. I am not there to ‘take charge’ and tell them how they need to be living their lives. Again, I am a friend and a friend will never judge a friend’s decisions. If anything, I would suggest better choices for them just like any other friend would. For example, if one of the individuals I serve wanted to spend their entire pay check on a $200 used game system, I may suggest other options for the reason of helping them manage their money or I may ask nicely how important the game system is to them. From there, they could hopefully tell me that the game system is not important enough that they spend their entire pay check on or they may choose a cheaper option. If not, they buy the game system and we move on. At the end of the day, it is their choice and if that choice makes them happy, that is all that matters.


Gentle Teaching has inspired me to become a better person. I find myself using the Gentle Teaching philosophy in all aspects of my life, which has allowed others to feel more respected and warm when they are around me. My Mother first noticed this in me about two months after I began working for COR. She told me that I had came a long way with my personality and the way I show myself to others. Growing up, I was not the child with the best personality or the child with the most respect toward others. As I get older, I am improving in these things every day. It was nice to hear that from someone who sees me almost every day. I know that I am nowhere near perfect, but some progress is better than none. In the end, anyone can better themselves and no one is ever too old to improve.


Jason, COR Support