Boundaries with Kids, by Cloud and Townsend

In his excellent sermon at PCA General Assembly this year, David Cassidy said, “Our kids are always being discipled. The question is by whom and into what.”

Right now, your children are learning boundaries. The question is whether they are good boundaries or bad boundaries.

Boundaries define our limits and freedoms. They teach responsibility and ownership. They shape our character.

I’m a helper and a people pleaser. Those (mostly) good traits sometimes create bad boundaries. As I parent, I remind myself of chapter 4 regularly. It’s entitled “The Law of Sowing and Reaping.”

My favorite illustration in this chapter is about a homework assignment. This kind of conversation comes up in my house frequently:
Child: Mom, I need some glue for my project.
Mom: Sorry, dear, I don’t have any.
C: But I have to have it. The project’s due tomorrow.
M: What teacher would call and give you an assignment at this hour without enough time to get supplies?
C: Come on, Mom. She gave it to us at school.
M: When?
C: Two weeks ago.
M: Oh. So you have had two weeks to get glue and your other supplies?
C: Yes, but I thought we had them.
M: Oh. That’s sad. Seems like I remember this happening with the felt you needed for your last project. Well, I don’t have any, and it is past my bedtime. So I hope you can figure out something to make that does not require glue. Good night, honey. I’m pulling for you.

On the surface, to a helper like me, that may seem cold and calloused. Don’t you want your child to get an “A” on that assignment?

We want to protect our child from the natural consequences—to rescue them. But rescuing them now means they’ll have to face those consequences later in life, when the stakes are higher.

Here are “Ten Boundary Principles Kids Need to Know.” The Law of:

  1. Sowing and Reaping. What will happen if I do this?
  2. Responsibility. Pulling my own wagon.
  3. Power. I can’t do it all, but I’m not helpless either.
  4. Respect. I’m not the only one who matters.
  5. Motivation. Life beyond “Because I’m the Mommy.”
  6. Evaluation. Pain can be a gift.
  7. Proactivity. Tantrums needn’t be forever.
  8. Envy. I am happier when I am thankful.
  9. Activity. Jump-starting my engine.
  10. Exposure. Honesty is the best policy.

Part of parenting is teaching our children how life works. We can begin very early.

And in learning about shaping boundaries for kids, I always come away with a better understanding of boundaries for myself.