I had lunch with some good friends today and as fellow parents, the conversation turned at one point to the importance of children having boundaries in their lives. Turns out that it’s something I feel quite strongly about and, I recall, our inability to agree on those boundaries was a constant point of contention when I was married too.
After lunch I drove up from San Diego to Laguna Beach, which meant that I had to drive through the San Clemente Immigration & Naturalization Service checkpoint just north of San Onofre:
I’ll skip the political commentary about fences between the United States and Mexico, border checks, racial profiling and the treatment of illegal aliens, and just note that there was some interesting synergy between the lunchtime conversation and the post-lunch drive.
Still, it’s something I can’t really understand about permissive parents: how can you think that your child is going to grow up into someone who is responsible, mature, and able to make their own decisions within both the legal framework of society and the cultural framework of their peer group if you don’t give them practice working with boundaries when they’re young?
There’s another aspect to this discussion too: I believe children feel safer and more protected when they live within a known set of boundaries and constraints. Like anyone else, kids need to know the rules, need to know what’s okay and what’s not, what they’re responsible for and what’s going to be done for them. Take that away and it’s scary. What happens if we run out of food? What happens if that bully follows me into the yard?
Really, that’s why local law enforcement is darn useful too, along with firefighters and other infrastructure and safety people: to create a safe container, safe boundaries that if you have a candle you burn, you’re on your own, but if it your roof then catches fire? We’ve got ya covered.
I realize that there’s also some irony that I’m a self-employeed entrepreneur, yet appreciate boundaries and checkpoints. Then again, maybe that’s how I can juggle so darn many things? How about you, dear reader, do you consider yourself a parent who imposes a lot of rules and/or a lot of boundaries for your children or are you more lose and relaxed?
I guess I would have to say I am comfortably in between. As toddlers and adolescents, my three had boundaries at every turn. When they showed that they had the skills to move beyond them, my wife and I let them progress to the next stage. Ever so slowly, we let them define logical boundaries for themselves. Of course, there were times when their self defined limits were unreasonable, but by that time they had the minds to readjust their own self expectations. It has not been flawless, that’s for sure, but when my kids have fallen, they’ve had the strength and fortitude to seek our guidance in order to move forward.
Toddlers or teens, good boundaries are needed. The individuation that developmentally occurs around age 2 is facilitated by caregivers setting good boundaries. That’s how we learn that there is something to push against, which is reassuring in and of itself.
Always interesting to me how many of the toddler issues re-appear in teen years, especially if they have not been adequately addressed before.
Being a great grandfather I have witnessed three generations of child rearing in my family sphere. I have been and still am a limit kind of guy and I consider it part of loving my kids and their kids. I can tell from the longer lens of perspective that as Dave says, children feel more secure and indeed more cared about when parents and significant adults set boundaries.
I have watched my now grown son Chuck (a remarkable DAD) raise my granddaughter with Love and Logic principles which creates a peaceful relationship but with definite boundaries.
PS As a caring grandparent I always communicate with the parents so that I am consistent with the way they are raising their children and I do my best to honor and practice what the parents are doing.