When my son Trent was assigned his first science project in fourth grade, Jean and I agreed to let him do the project all on his own. After all, the whole point was for him to learn, right?
Apparently, not every parent shared that view.
At the end of the semester, the school held an open house, so the children could show off their work. It was pretty obvious which parents had been too involved in their child’s schoolwork. I confess I scratched my head when I saw the rocket ship that had been built from scratch by an actual astronaut! Even if those students got an A+, did they learn anything?
Poor parenting boundaries can take many forms. Some parents allow their children to interrupt conversations without saying “excuse me.” Other parents don’t teach their children to get themselves up for school. I’ve even heard of parents who sit in a Starbucks late at night doing their child’s homework.
Poor parenting boundaries impact children long-term. If nothing is expected from them in childhood, what will happen when they’re twenty-five? They’ll expect everyone else to take care of them like mom and dad did.
Healthy boundaries for children not only focus on their behavior in that specific moment. They also prepare children to behave properly in the future. Although we want our children to get their homework done, keep their rooms clean, and treat their brothers and sisters properly right here right now, we also want them to do those things because they’re compelled by their inner motivation.
Inner motivation is what enables children to be in control of themselves and, therefore, live with autonomy and freedom. It’s what enables them to tie their own shoes and get themselves up and dressed for school. And when they’re adults, they’ll have the inner character to be disciplined with their money, to get a career and perform well in it, or to raise healthy kids themselves.
The further out into the future that we see as parents the better our decisions will be today.
On our Focus on the Family Broadcast “Raising Kids with Healthy Boundaries,” our guest, Dr. Henry Cloud, will be sharing practical nuts-and-bolts advice for transferring the responsibility for life to your children.
Before I close, I’d like to extend an invitation for you to become a special partner with us through our monthly “Friends of Focus on the Family” program. When you do, I’ll send you a copy of Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend’s book Boundaries with Kids: How Healthy Choices Grow Healthy Children as a way of saying thank you for touching others with the love of Christ. You’ll also receive member-exclusive benefits. To make your pledge, or for more information, visit our website or call 1-800-A-FAMILY (232-6459).
We’ve also got a free parenting assessment for you at our website. It will quickly give you an overview of how your family is doing in several key areas. It also offers suggestions for improving the relationships in your home.