If you live or work with children, you know that guiding them toward godliness and self-control has never been more challenging. Today’s kids are being hijacked by a culture that hurls them into adulthood prematurely. From media to mainstream, the message is “Grow up!”
For example, when my nieces and nephews were in college they were being taught: “There are no moral absolutes.” Depending on the “situation,” you can lie, cheat, steal—or whatever.
Equipping kids to be deeply self-disciplined (and consistently respectful) and to prioritize principle over passion requires enormous wisdom, motivation, and commitment—as well as faith and hard work.
Over the years, I’ve seen so many perplexed parents and too many parents in pain who say, “Just tell me what to do, June—I promise I’ll do it!” But the answer is not a simple, one-step “it.” The answer is a mind-set that seems to work miracles. This life-changing mind-set is centered on the word boundaries and is flanked between two Rs—repercussions and rewards.
Boundaries are established limits—lines you don’t cross. Even very young children understand boundaries. Bathrooms have doors. Cribs have sides. Streets have curbs.
In most areas of life, when you exceed a boundary, the result is a repercussion. And most often, when you maintain a boundary, the result is a reward.
Picture an Olympic arena with all the white lines on the racetrack. Hear the blast of the start gun. See the runners burst out of the blocks. Watch as one sprinter darts into another runner’s lane, and hear the crowd gasp. The repercussion is instant—immediate disqualification. What a horrible way to lose! Yet, as long as the others stay inside their own lanes, the reward of finishing is theirs—along with the possibility of winning.
Behaviors have boundaries too. Whether these boundaries are ethical, moral, legal, or biblical, they all provide a compass for acceptable behavior. Kids who live without behavioral boundaries often feel frustrated, insecure, and confused by the inevitable lack of order in their lives. Ultimately, parents who let their kids keep getting away with wrong are literally training them to do wrong.
Conversely, when kids consistently experience appropriate repercussions for breaking a boundary, those negative consequences provide predictable pain. In turn, that pain motivates kids to develop discipline in order to prevent future negative consequences.
Realize, doing right eventually feels right. Kids with character do the right things—not to impress the world, but often because they’ve been transformed by a powerful process described in Romans 12:2: “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”
Boundaries also help stem the tide of self-centered entitlement that threatens to engulf our culture—a tide that urges children to worship at the altar of new, more … and now! They feel entitled to have what they want.
Wise parents recognize that the goal of external boundaries is to build internal character.
“I deserve new! I deserve more! I deserve it now!” Child psychologist Dr. James Dobson correctly states that few things “inhibit a sense of appreciation more than for a child to feel he is entitled to whatever he wants, whenever he wants it.”1
I love to tell parents, grandparents, and those who work with children, “The goal of external boundaries isn’t just to protect your child, but to build internal character.” Every child needs internal character to make right decisions. This will prepare them to make right decisions in adulthood.
A few years ago, I wrote Bonding with Your Teen through Boundaries—the book I wish I had had when I was a youth director. Then the publisher asked me to write the “prequel”—a companion volume that combines biblical hope and practical help for parents of grade-schoolers, including tweens (ages nine through twelve), and even children as young as two or three. This book was conceived in direct response to parents who, after reading our Teen book, said, “June, we desperately needed a book like this when our kids were younger!”
What sets Bonding with Your Child through Boundaries apart from other child-discipline books is 36 chapters that each include a real-life scenario, followed by practical “What You Could Do” and “What You Could Say” sections to help remove much of the guesswork when implementing boundaries. Each chapter ends with a related Bible verse to encourage your heart and help you impart Scripture to your children.
The parent-child relationship rests on the careful balance of loving affirmation and loving discipline. Don’t confuse one with the other. Kids depend on you and other caring adults in their lives to supply both—just as we look to our heavenly Father for both.
Parenting very well may be the most demanding, rewarding, faith-building job most people will ever undertake. I sincerely thank you for the privilege of coming alongside you on a journey designed to improve the life of your child—and also a journey that could very well change your life.
My heartfelt prayer is that you will lovingly bond with the Lord through the boundaries laid out in His Word so that you will gain the wisdom needed to bond with your child through boundaries.
Yours in the Lord’s hope,
If you’re on Facebook, I invite you to connect with me at Facebook.com/June.Hunt.Hope. And if you’re not, take it from me: You’re never too old to start! See you there!