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Setting Boundaries For Your Kids

Mar 27, 2008
A two year tries to touch something you've told him a hundred times is off-limits. A ten year old goes beyond the perimeters you've set for her in the neighborhood. A sixteen year old stays out a half hour past his curfew.

No matter what age your kids are, the boundaries you set for them are bound to be tested. As the parent, the reasons for these restrictions are obvious. You don't want your toddler to touch an outlet because he might get hurt. You prohibit your ten-year-old to go outside of the neighborhood because of the busy street that lies beyond. You want your sixteen-year-old home at a certain time because of nighttime dangers.

Despite their protests to the contrary, we don't set boundaries because we're ogres and want to prevent our kids from having fun. We're simply trying to protect them. That's what loving parents do.

Here are three things to keep in mind when setting boundaries for your kids:

1. Create the boundaries. This sounds like a no-brainer but there are many parents who never officially establish boundaries. Then, when their child does something his parents don't approve of, the child gets in trouble but is left scratching his head, wondering what he did wrong. Kids need specifics. Not just, "Be home after dark," but "Be home by ten o'clock."

It may be necessary to make a list of your families specific boundaries and post it in a prominent place so your child can refer to it, if needed, or at least to serve as a reminder in case she "forgets" the rules.

2. Lay out the consequences. Just as important as setting the boundaries is explaining what the consequences will be for crossing them. If kids don't know beforehand what will happen if they ignore the boundaries, it's more likely they will test you and take a chance that the result won't be that bad.

And then, if and when they do cross those boundaries, you won't be left stressing about it. You'll know exactly what to do.

3. Boundaries are meant to expand. As your child grows, the boundaries will too. You probably keep your toddler confined to your front yard but your seven-year-old may be allowed to ride her bike three house lengths down the street. A ten-year-old may have the freedom to ride his bike around the block, and you might okay your twelve-year-old's plea to walk to a friend's house, several blocks away. Take age, as well as each child's individual responsibility into consideration, along with his or her history of staying within the boundaries.

Research shows that even though they throw tantrums and fits regarding boundaries they don't think are fair, kids who are not given guidelines and restrictions while growing up are more likely to have behavior problems. Kids just aren't wired to handle the responsibility that comes with freedom.

God loves us and lays out plenty of guidelines and restrictions in His Word. Staying within the boundaries God has set for us sets a wonderful example to our kids. Additionally, consistently setting boundaries and sticking to them will ensure that our children will someday realize that we're not trying to keep something from them but are actually giving something to them. We're offering them the love and security they'll need when they're finally able to spread their wings and fly into the world on their own.
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