Boundary-setting that works for you and your child

imageToday’s parenting post is by Grace.  Grace is a wife, homeschooling mom, doula, pastor’s kid, and writer. She currently resides in southern Oregon with her husband and three gorgeous children, where they enjoy walks in the woods, wading in the river, reading good books, and attending a diverse and compassionate church.
You can find Grace over at My Divine Blessings where she blogs about special needs, family, pregnancy, christianity and many other things.


After three children, it’s become quite apparent to me that every child has their own unique personality. One would think that this fact would be obvious, but for some reason our society’s books on parenting seem to think that all children will respond to one particular method or technique. Within these various methods, whether they work for most kids, or only work temporarily for some kids, or don’t work for any kids in the long run and ought to be done away with altogether, there is some commonality, which is that they are all ways of setting boundaries: “You may do X, but not Y”; “This behavior is not acceptable, but that one is”; “Such actions are not acceptable, but these other actions are to be praised”.

 Boundaries are what teach our children how to behave in modern society without any resemblance to the “society” in Lord of the Flies. Teaching manners, kindness, and compassion are all vitally important for us to live together in this world. Yet how to teach those things is a mystery to many parents, especially with so many different “experts” claiming their method as THE method to use.

 What I support in my doula and parent educator work is for parents to make informed decisions. Every parent has the right to choose one method or another (provided it is not abusive to the child), but they ought to make decisions after exploring different options and being truly informed. It’s important that as we set boundaries and teach our children how to behave, that we do so in a way that works for them, and that you, the parent, can get behind and support fully. It’s not only your child’s individuality and personality to consider, but also your own. So here I will present a few ways to sift through the various methods and figure out which one will work for both you and your child.

 Does it align with scripture?

This is of course the most important, but sadly it’s one of the most misunderstood standards of child-rearing. There are common idioms and old wives tales which are passed on as if they are somehow biblical, but they actually are not. It’s important to take the Bible as a whole. If one verse seems to contradict another, mete it out prayerfully and dig a little deeper to find which verse was misunderstood. Try different versions, look at commentaries, and seek out differing opinions to see which one seems to fit the whole of scripture, in context. Examine each supporting scripture through the lens of Christ. If you can’t see Jesus disciplining your child in that way, then perhaps you should find another way.

 Does it work for your personality?

This is not only a question of whether you can support the method, or whether you “feel good” about it. It’s also the question of temptation. If you are prone to certain sins—anger, anxiety, laziness—find something that will not encourage those sins. The parent with an anger problem should not take to spanking; the parent who is lazy should not take to a parenting method which lowers the parents’ involvement. Take care to make sure the method you choose will not be a stumbling block to you or your spouse.

 Does it work for your child’s personality?

Boundary-setting is always going to be difficult, and children will almost always fight against it (unless you have one of those mythical compliant children). But it should always encourage them to abide within those boundaries without having to be bribed, manipulated, or threatened to do so. They ought to do right because it is right; not because they fear punishment, or because they want a prize. Doing right should be a reward on its own. So find something that will lead them to do right in a way that they understand and that works with their unique personhood.

 Try it and be open to change.

I’ve tried many methods with my “spirited” oldest child. Few have truly worked for the both of us. We have found PCIT to be the most effective for her, though we are still learning and developing our skills in that method. Still, it has taken six years for us to figure that out. There were many trials, many failures, and many changes in course. Whenever you set out to try a new method, do so with the knowledge that it might not work, and you might need to change again. Be willing to change as needed.

Use a variety rather than being stuck with only one.

I read a lot of parenting books, blogs, online magazines, websites, forums…. I have heard pretty much everything there is so far. Not that I know everything or am the ultimate expert, but I have read quite a bit and consider myself well-educated on the subject. This does not mean I am a perfect parent and always get it right. Quite the contrary. It’s because I see my faults and failings that I keep trying to figure it out and get new ideas. Because of all this extensive research I have done over the years, I have found that it is not always one particular method that works, but that the combination of many methods works well to round out the big picture of parenting. Some methods work in certain age ranges, or with certain children, which do not work in the next age or with subsequent children. It’s important to be sensitive to those, and not be so set on one particular method that you sabotage yourself and create more frustration for you and your child. Mix it up and figure out what works for you.

Parenting is such a unique combination of meshing your personality with your child’s, and sometimes it’s hard to find the balance between them. Respecting your individuality as well as your child’s will be the key to finding a way to set boundaries in a positive and effective way.


This entry was posted in April 2015 and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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