If you’re a parent, you’ve heard the word “boundaries,” but whether or not you have them or enforce them is a different story. We know that boundary setting is not for the faint of heart, but it is necessary and beneficial for many reasons.
Along with raising three children, we’ve always been a dog owning family too, but we haven’t always been a fence owning one. Many years were spent with our Jack Russell running and hopping (Yes, JR’s hop!) through our yard. Each day, we would let him out in our fenced in yard, and he would go on a critter hunt, explore all the scents or just enjoy the sun on our deck–until we moved. Our new home didn’t have a fence, and, for that reason, we had to walk him on a leash so he wouldn’t go running off (because Jack Russells do that, too). We eventually bought an invisible fence that poor little Barklee couldn’t see. We went through the training with him, and, after one little shock, he wouldn’t even go off the deck!
That was not the plan.
The problem was that he couldn’t see the fence he didn’t know he had. His boundaries were not clear, so he suddenly lost all of his freedom and had it turned into fear. He was once joyful and free, and he suddenly became insecure and anxious. He didn’t know where the next shock was coming from, so he lost his freedom to move. Sure, other dogs may go to the other extreme and defiantly bust their way through the fence, shock and all, but that wouldn’t have been good either. Our children aren’t much different. They need those fences. Those boundaries provide security and freedom. And, I know you know that, Mom and Dad, so let’s talk about why you may not be putting them into place.
Here are 4 potential reasons that you may avoid setting boundaries. Warning: they may sting a little.
1) Giving boundaries doesn’t feel good. They make you feel mean, and you don’t like that. Not setting boundaries allows you to feel better about yourself. The problem with this is that, while you are able to avoid the emotional pain of feeling bad, it’s only because you’re asking your child to deal with it instead. Remember, not setting boundaries removes their security. It also removes opportunities for them to learn how to self-regulate emotionally. The child who doesn’t self-regulate is not the child others want to be around, nor is it a child who is content. So, you may feel less guilty in the moment, but it’s not a very good trade for your child.
2 ) You have a worry issue. You misunderstand boundaries and think that your children don’t need them as long as they have you making any and all decisions for them. Who needs boundaries with a hyper-vigilant parent? This line of thinking also robs from your child. The moment you have them, your job as a parent is to teach them how to, dare I say, not need you and become independent. You’re raising an adult, not a child. Boundaries allow them to explore and experience consequences so, one day, when they go out into the world on their own, they will have confidence, fearlessness, and the ability to set boundaries for themselves. By not allowing your child to experience pain and consequences, you are teaching them that they can’t handle it. Most importantly, you are teaching them that God is not enough to help them through painful situations, so they must only do what feels good.
3) You are living vicariously through your child. You were, perhaps, deprived or raised in an authoritarian type home, and boundaries seem to be more a strict set of rules instead of a safe form of freedom. Because of what you may have lost out on or had too much of, you want your child to have more, and you want to experience that with them. Your goal is to undo what had done to you. This can be a great goal, but it needs to be heeded with caution. Sometimes, when we have been hurt or wronged, we resort to extremes. As you parent your child, be sure that this is not the case.
4) You incorrectly prioritize what is valuable. Saying no to your child is hard. You want them to have nice things and things they desire, and anything other than giving them what they want feels like you are depriving them. This is simply not the case. In fact, the opposite is true. Teaching your children that people and living God’s way is better than any phone, new toy, Instagram account, you name it, is far better. One day, those toys and electronics turn into houses and cars that can’t be afforded, and when it’s all said and done, those “treasures on earth” ( Mt 6:19), will all be destroyed.
Ultimately, your children need your “Yes to be Yes and your No, No” (Mt 5:37). Being a parent is a tremendous calling in life, and it’s not meant to be easy. As you move forward in this journey, do it, not with what feels best to you in the moment, but with what is best for your child in long term. Mom and Dad, they need you to be that fence. They want to run and play and learn the beauty of true freedom; that freedom that can only be found in Christ. After all, when they learn from you, they will have no problems obeying the word of God and understanding that this world is not all about them.
Hope that didn’t hurt too much!
PS. Barklee is doing just fine and is safe and free within his boundaries!