How to Have Proper Boundaries with Children
Why do we need boundaries?
We all have imaginary lines that we don't want others to cross-lines that allow us to feel safe when each person is on the appropriate side. These boundary lines make us feel comfortable when they're adhered to and violated when they've been tampered with. Even God has given us boundary lines within our own lives to direct us to areas that our safe for our well-being. Psalm 16:5-6 reveals, "Lord, you alone are my portion and my cup; you make my lot secure. The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance." Boundaries do not provide us with restraints so much as they provide us with a protective environment to live in.
The Word "No" is not a Bad Word
As a teacher or a parent, how many times have you been annoyed by your child telling you "no"? I know that a lot of the power struggles that I've had with kids boils down to both parties wanting their way. While it's important, as an adult, to maintain consistent authority, it is also important to respect a child's right to exercise their voice. When we override their no, we're saying that we can disrespect their ability to make a choice and we start to quench the gift that God gave us all- that of free will.
This is why it’s important to discern where there answer is coming from. Is it coming from a place of complete defiance? Are they tired or hungry and therefore all of their responses are resulting from that sense of lack? Or are they truly making a conscience choice based on the options they’ve been given? While it’s not fair to assume that we know all of the answers to why kids do what they do, we understand our kids a lot more than most.
If they are making a decision based on what’s been presented to them, it's important to remind them of the natural consequences of their "no," if there are any at all. If we can't think of any consequences that are attached to their response, and we still find ourselves struggling against them, we may have to look at and correct our desire to be right, even at the expense of causing turmoil with our relationships with children.
They Like Having Options
Similar to most adults, most children do not like being limited to only one option. One option available eliminates the ability to make our own choice, even if it's not the answer that allows for our best interest. God never violates our free will. The deeper understanding of this that we have, the easier it will be to naturally respect the free will of others. If we tell God "no," even against our own best interest, He will respect the answers of our hearts and natural consequences will follow.
I was inspired to write an article on boundaries, in part, due to a book that I have just finished reading. It's called "Boundaries," by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend. In this book, both authors represent living a life full of boundaries, from a biblical standpoint. A major part of this book that stood out to me is the fact that we can persuade God's mind. Think about when Abraham implored God to save the people of Sodom and Gommorah. He didn't even fully dispel what was on his heart (he was hesitant in manner) and yet God still gave him his heart's desire- for Lot and his family to be saved. Abraham was still acting within the boundaries that God had set up. After all, how can prayer, which is essentially communication with God, be outside of the boundaries that God has set up in our lives?
As children grow and mature, allow them to take part in boundary setting. Enable them to have a say-so and have them explain their opinion as to why they believe that things should be a certain way. When we truly listen, we may find a better perspective from the heart of a child, or we may come away more firm in our own beliefs concerning certain boundaries. Either way, it's a learning process for both the children and the adults involved in making the decision to set boundaries. When we have a heart-revelation of why we need boundaries, it will be easier to set them in place, even if we receive an initial kick-back because of them.