Begin parenting with the end in mind.
You walk into the room and you’re handed a maze. Unlike any other maze you have seen, this one ONLY has an end and a beginning no other lines to guide you to the goal. So immediately you think, “Weird, but this is going to be easy.” As you start your maze, heading straight to the finish line, you hear the teacher say “Nope you can’t do that, there’s a dead-end right there.” Confused you go another direction and once again you hear “Nope you can’t do that, there’s a castle so you have to go around it.” Now you’re frustrated thinking “Really, why didn’t you put the castle in there then.” You continue, but the same thing keeps happening until the teacher stops everyone and says “This is what a child feels like, not to be given clear boundaries but then to be told “you shouldn’t have done that, why are you so frustrated your such a slacker, this is not okay, your grounded for a week for, why do you keep disobeying, etc…..
“Children are not born with boundaries. A boundary is a “property line” that defines a person; it defines where one person ends and someone else begins. If we know where a person’s boundaries are, we know what we can expect this person to take control of; himself or herself. We can require responsibility in regard to feelings, behaviours, and attitudes. A child needs to know where she begins, what she needs to take responsibility for, and what she does not need to take responsibility for.
Children are wanting for you to adapt to their requirements. You can see why parenting is so difficult. Children internalize boundaries from external relationships and discipline. In order for children to learn who they are and what they are responsible for, their parents have to have clear boundaries with them and relate to them in ways that help them learn their own boundaries. “
As an adult reading this you make think “If only someone would have shown me, modeled boundaries to me.”
Maybe we didn’t get it as kids but we definitely can help instill these values of respect, self-control, freedom and love to our children. Our children don’t naturally possess some of these characteristics but as we “take a stance of good clear boundaries with children, they will have a better chance of gaining the motivation, the need, the skill to live a loving, responsible, righteous, and successful life unto God and others. This is what character is all about.”
Character Building With the Future in Mind
Love– “Loving people recognize that the world does not revolve around them. They consider the consequences of their behavior on people around them before they act. George sat in my (Dr. Cloud’s) office, despondent. His wife Janet, whom he loved deeply, had just moved out because he had lost another job. A very talented person, George seemed to have everything he needed for success. But he had lost several jobs because of his irresponsibility and inability to follow through.
“Georges parents were fine, hardworking people. But having gone through the Depression…. they did not want George to have to struggle as they had. As a result, they indulged him and required very little work from him. When they did give him chores and responsibilities and he did not deliver, they would not discipline him, thinking that they wanted him to have “positive self-esteem” rather than the “guilt” with which they grew up. Consequently, he did not see any negative effect on his loved ones when he did not perform.”
Responsibility– “Another aspect of mature character is responsibility. George’s irresponsibility was costing him his marriage and had cost him financial losses, chaos, a lack of stability, and unrealized dreams. What is responsibility is to take ownership. When you take ownership, you realize that all aspects of your life are truly yours and only yours and that no one is going to live your life for you.”
Freedom– “Have you ever been in a relationship with a “victim”? Victims feel as if they have no choices in life. Life is something that happens to them, and whatever comes their way is their lot. Children raised with good boundaries learn that they are not only responsible for their lives, but also free to live their lives any way they choose, as long as they take responsibility for their choices.”
Initiating– “While we were talking, Davey came in several times complaining of “nothing to do,” wanting his mom to design playtime for him. Knowing that he had all the resources he needed, she looked at him and said, “Davey, you are responsible for your own fun.” Not long after that he found a friend to come over and play. In many cases people who were not required to initiate and complete their tasks and goals instead someone else did it for them or bailed them out of the consequences of their acts ,have a difficult time taking responsibility for their own fun and outcome of their goals.”
Respectful of Reality– Consequences
“We all know adults who have little respect for reality. They continue to make poor choices, and either they are enabled by others to avoid the consequences of their behavior until a real catastrophe occurs, or they suffer one terrible loss after another. Time and time again, we can find the roots of such behaviour in a lack of those boundaries…. they were bailed out too many times, they were allowed to think that consequences were for someone else and not them.”
Grow: Learn from circumstances –“The ability to grow is a character issue. Good parenting can help a child develop character that faces the obstacles of life with an orientation toward growth. It includes developing abilities and gaining knowledge as well as facing negative things about oneself that need changing: confessing when one is wrong, grieve and let go of can’t be changed, change behavior or direction when confronted with reality, forgive, take ownership…. Sometimes kids use their charm and talent to put off change and as adults we allow them instead of requiring them to adapt to the demands of reality.”
Honesty– “Honesty begins with parents who model it, require it from their children, and provide them with a safe environment in which to be honest. By and large, all children hide the truth when it threatens them. So parents need to create a context in which a child’s natural tendency to hide can be overcome. This requires a delicate balance between safety and standards. Boundaries help someone to tell the truth. Besides requiring the truth, boundaries give the safety of known consequences for failure. Children hide from relational consequences more than the known logical consequences of their behavior.”
Transcendence– The world doesn’t revolve around me. “These people forever build a life around themselves and their own self-centeredness, others feel like objects instead of people. To transcend oneself means to get past one’s own existence and value the existence of others. The most important questions that anyone has to answer are “Who is God?” and “Is it me, or is it God?” The answers govern every direction of a person’s life. People who know that they are not God look up to God. They understand the greatest commandment: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” Mt 22:37″
Seeing character building as a task of parenting can be overwhelming. It is certainly easier to manage the moment or to do what comes naturally. But the need is greater and higher. As we said before, a child’s character will determine much of the course his life takes.
(The italicized information above are excerpts from the book Boundaries with Kids, in the future articles there will be more interaction between my thoughts and the writers ideas but this was pretty much straight forward information on boundaries, character building and how it affects us as adults.)
This is the first of our series Teaching Our Kids Boundaries
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All images via Flicker-Demandaj-Amanda Tipton