It isn’t exactly a word that makes you jump up and down for joy.
But boundaries are necessary for raising good adults, and that’s your job as a parent. It isn’t your job to raise happy children—or even ones who are well-mannered and agreeable. No, the Bible makes it clear a parent’s job is to “train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6, NKJV).
Creating boundaries is a loaded subject. There’s a lot to it, so we aren’t going to try to cover every little detail in a single article—that would be one long post. But we can dive into why it’s necessary to raise your children with a good grasp on what boundaries are and explain how they will affect your child’s life.
Here’s what we mean . . .
There’s a big difference between protecting our kids from harm—and sheltering them from reality.
Take this example, for instance.
James is in fourth grade. He makes good grades and has a lot of friends. He’s well-liked and he gets along with his parents. And he’s usually pretty good about obeying the rules. But one afternoon, he decides to dawdle and not get his schoolwork done before dinner. After dinner, he decides to play a few video games. “I’ll do my math homework after this game,” he says to himself.
But before he knows it, it’s 8:30 p.m.—bedtime.
Here’s where it gets tricky.
If his mom or dad lets him stay up to finish his homework, or if they help him rush through it to get it done on time, what are they teaching him? They might think it shows James how much they love him and want him to succeed in school.
Unfortunately, what they’re actually teaching him is the opposite—that there aren’t really consequences for his choices.
James knew bedtime was at 8:30, and he chose to play games instead of doing his homework. He knew what needed to get done, but he prioritized something other than his responsibility as a school student.
It’s a hard pill to swallow, especially because the word consequence isn’t exactly a crowd pleaser in today’s world. But if we don’t allow our children to learn from their mistakes under our roof, the world will teach them later—and those lessons tend to leave a nasty mark.
If James grows comfortable with putting off his responsibilities because his mom or dad will always pick up the slack, what is going to happen when he delays paying his electricity bill or doesn’t turn in a work project on time? In the best-case scenario, his lights will be cut off until he pays his utility bill. In the worst-case scenario, he could lose his job.
Your children are going to learn the hard life lessons eventually; it’s best if they can experiment with making mistakes with you first. But if you don’t allow them to experience those consequences, you’re only setting them up to fall—and fall hard—later in life when the stakes are higher.
Don’t be afraid to let your little ones make mistakes. Keeping them sheltered from the natural consequences of life isn’t protecting them; it’s enabling them and doing them a disservice. Instead, give them the appropriate space to learn, and they will grow and mature into the adults God is calling them to be.
And don’t give up hope, either. You have a sobering responsibility, and you’re putting in a lot of hard work. It may not be easy, but if you teach these lessons now, you and your children will reap the rewards for years to come.
To learn more about parenting with boundaries, check out Boundaries: When to Say Yes, How to Say No to Take Control of Your Life by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend today.