A friend’s nine-month old baby is crawling and climbing, causing her parents some concern, as she has no awareness of danger.

There has been chat about the merits of playpens and stair gates are in position.

Another friend, who lives in West London, is concerned about her 15-year old son. The boy is determined to live a more adventurous life than his parents feel comfortable in allowing. Compromises are negotiated.

These are illustrations of boundaries. Boundaries set by caring people, who are concerned as to the safety of their children. Boundaries set and moved by adults, as the child grows and learns how to set their own. Except some adults lack that ability.

A healthy baby always kept in a playpen for months and years, would amount to child neglect. Teenagers think they are aware of all the dangers outside their front door, but adults, remembering their own near escapes from challenging situations, have different ideas.

Initial boundaries are slowly widened to allow for healthy physical and psychological growth. Not giving boundaries can lead to wild behaviour, but films of wild animals kept in captivity, in too small a space for their needs, will show increasingly disturbed behaviour. Humans kept within boundaries that do not take their development into account, can develop mental health problems. Is too much ‘helicopter parenting’ leading to an increase in some of these problems?

A teaching tale: A king and queen had a precious son, but were told by a mystic, that he would be killed by a wild animal. They decided never to allow him outside the castle walls. They gave the child everything he could want inside the walls. This included a magnificent room where jungle scenes were painted on the walls. At the top of one wall, artists painted lions and tigers. One day a workman left the room with a tall ladder in position against a wall. The boy, wandering around the castle, came across the room and intrigued by the animals, wanted to get nearer them. He climbed the ladder, reached out to touch a tiger, fell off the ladder and died.

We learn how to set our own boundaries of behaviour. If we always relied on others for setting our boundaries, our emotional growth will remain stunted.

Rita Leaman is a psychotherapist and writes as Alison R Russell (chasingbows.org.uk alisonrussell275.blogspot.co.uk)