Choices With Boundaries

Our families used to be big, consisting of 3 or 4 generations living together. Intentional training of children wasn’t necessary because children learned right behaviors by observing how their family members interacted with each other. Today, the nuclear family is the norm. Children can’t learn right behaviors unless their parents intentionally teach them.

Sadly, most young parents appear to be uninterested in training their children. They seem to think that their only responsibilities as parents are to meet their children’s needs and fulfill their wishes. That’s wrong. Children need to be trained.

However, old ways of training no longer work. In old times, parents relied on their parental authority to train their children. When their children protested and demanded the reasons for doing certain things, “Because I say so” was a good enough reason. This doesn’t work for today’s kids.

Now, parents must teach their children how to choose within boundaries.

Parents need to draw boundary lines that their children cannot step over. Knowing their boundaries gives children a sense of security. For example, when teenagers want to go to a party where alcohol or drug use is suspected, parents must be firm and not let their children go. They may protest loudly but feel relieved, feeling that they’re protected.

Parents must teach their children how to make decisions because doing so helps them become independent and responsible. But their choices must not be wide open. When they go out, for example, parents shouldn’t ask their young children “What do you want to wear?” They may choose inappropriate dress for the occasion or thin clothes on a cold day. A better way is for parents to select several outfits and let their children choose one of them. This is a choice with boundaries.

In my experience, the principle of choices with boundaries also seems to work for pastoral ministry. I give our church members basic guidelines and allow them to do ministry freely within them. Because there are clear guidelines, there is no confusion. Because they are free to do whatever they want within those boundaries, they can be creative.

This principle originated from God. He gave His people commandments, which set boundaries that the people of God should not step over. But within these boundaries, people are allowed to choose whatever they like to do. Giving choices with boundaries is a godly principle for parenting.

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