Boundaries are taught early at my home. With our oldest child, we started at 4 months. The game was simple: Don’t touch Daddy’s glasses.
Like with all first things with children, everything is fun and exciting: eyes opening for the first time, the first smile, and the first tooth. When our daughter began reaching out and touching my husband’s glasses it was fun, but it got old really quick. At 4 months, we told her, “No touch” for the first time. All it took was a stern voice and slight tap of the hand and she got the message. We were teaching her boundaries.
When a rock hits the water, the ripple ring starts out so small but it’s reach seems endless. That is the same with teaching children boundaries from a young age. These boundaries could seem trivial, but in reality, life changing. By teaching our daughter this one boundary, we have taught her the following:
- She doesn’t get everything she wants
- Not everything is hers
- Life does not revolve around her
- She is not the boss
- There are consequences to disobedience
A major caveat to teaching these boundaries is consistency. A parent who is not consistent in their training and discipline is a whimsical tyrant. These parents will potentially breed very insecure children. By being consistent, children will know what is expected of them and they can trust their parents. Arthur Hildersham, a man who wrote, Dealing with Sin in our Children, encourages parents to actively deal with sin in their children because we are the ones whom the Lord has given the responsibility. In teaching boundaries, we are on our way to showing children the gospel.
The earlier a parent starts with teaching their children boundaries, the easier it will be for both parents and child. It is like a weed. It is best to pull it out when it is small and the roots are not deep. Let that weed take root and it will be harder to deal with.
Paul Tripp reminds us that we cannot change our children’s hearts. The Lord is the one who changes hearts, but we as parents do have a responsibility to lovingly lead and guide our children and to instruct them in what is right and wrong. Boundaries are one of the greatest lessons you can teach small children. That ripple will stretch throughout their entire life.
For Further Discussion:
The Foundations of Godly Parenting by John MacArthur