Thursday, January 31, 2019

#parentingtruth No. 4 - Family Boundaries

parenting truths, family boundaries, childhood, security, house rules

Sometimes it is a little hard to swallow the parenting truths we learn along the way. This may be one of those tough ones for you. 

We hope for an idyllic childhood for our kids - happy days, comfortable nights, and memorable vacations. Our realities often turn out differently than we had hoped. It is important that we learn to set some family boundaries early on so that what our children remember, and what we actually create, is focused more on a safe childhood, filled with love, than a Pinterest perfect looking childhood filled with remorse.

Today’s #parentingtruth is all about learning to set those boundaries that work best for your family. 
Your family - your rules. We all have friends who seem to have it all together. However, we cannot plan to model our families after them, because God has not called us to live their lives, but rather our own. Besides, you never know all the struggles your friends are going through - God is refining them just like He is refining you, but the methods are usually different.

So how do you set family boundaries? Think about what matters most to you and your spouse as parents. Make a list of those things, and then make a list of what your paying jobs require of you. While it might be okay in one family to have friends over until 9 p.m. every night, in a household where dad has to get up at 5 a.m. for work, the boundaries are going to be different. In a home where parents work opposite shifts to make sure someone is always available at home for the kids, sleepovers may not happen. It does not scar your children for things to be different at your house. A few years ago one of our daughters asked if we had ever had something “bad” happen at a sleepover and if that was why they rarely ever had them. I explained the reason was because their dad and I worked opposite shifts for so many years, so that someone could always be home with them, that it just did not leave enough time for having friends for overnights.

Family boundaries are meant to be bent, but not broken. What that means for us is that there is a lot of leeway for a special event, or a one time occurrence, like staying up until midnight to watch the Super Bowl, but in general, the house rules are there for your own good. You don’t want your children riddled with guilt because Grandma offers them a second piece of cake when they spend the night at her house, but you also don’t want them to think it is okay to eat desserts all the time instead of nutritious food. If you, as the parents, respect the family boundaries, then your children will learn to too. 

When it comes to where to set your family’s boundaries, remember that less is more. Less rules and more grace, less freedom and more security, less preaching and more doing. If it helps your children to understand what you expect of them, especially your preteens and teenagers, then make a list, but keep it short: no back talking, no staying out past midnight, no drinking, no smoking, no foul language. A short list is the less part of the equation. The more part is more grace and more love. Even if you were not raised with demonstrative parents, your children need to know that you love them. Allow then to apologize without fear when they have done something wrong, and daily remind them that you love them. Hug your kids, tell then you love them, make their favorite meal just because. The world is harsh, parents should not be!

When you start out setting boundaries, less freedom to roam is better than too much. Your younger children need to understand that you should always know where to find them. If they go over to the neighbor’s to play, then they should stay there unless you come get them, the neighbor sends them home, or they call you and ask for permission to go somewhere else. Setting your boundaries like this does not stifle their childhood, it allows them to thrive, knowing that you care about them. 

As the seasons of your family life change, so do the boundaries. Your teen will want to do more things and go more places. You are going to give them a little more freedom each year, but they have to retain your trust to keep that freedom. We live in a messed up, sinful world. Human trafficking and drug use are real problems that face many of our neighborhoods, schools and families. By setting family boundaries you are sheltering your children - in a good way! If we raise our children within the loving boundaries of our families, they are much less likely to fall prey to the evil in the world around them.

Sometimes, you or your spouse might wonder when your young adult children are going to stop calling you every time they go somewhere. Take heart moms and dads, they are still calling you because it makes them feel more secure knowing that you know where they are, and it gives them a feeling of safety in a difficult world. Our girls can call me forever if they want to. It is good for their hearts and minds, and mine as well. :)

Perhaps the best part of this #parentingtruth about family boundaries is learning that it is ok to stay at home. This does not mean you never go anywhere, far from it in our family, but that you value family time above other interests. It’s ok to say no to that extra sports team practice, to say no to that next concert, or to say no to committing your family to an after school club just because everyone else is doing it. Boundaries are designed to keeping you safe. A farmer’s fence keeps the sheep in the pasture, the orange construction cones help you keep your car in the correct lane, and your family’s boundaries show your children where they are safe.

In Psalm 16 David said that the boundary lines for him had fallen in “pleasant places.” He had trusted God to provide and care for him. May your children one day look back on your family boundaries and say that they had fallen in pleasant places. 

Bend but don’t break dear mom and dad, your children need the comfort of boundaries!

parenting truths, family boundaries, childhood, security, house rules

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