Why Kids Need Boundaries



Kids Need Boundaries

I’ve had occasion to think more recently about parents who want to be friends with their children. They don’t want their children to think of them as mean. They take it personally when a preschooler says, “I hate you.” The parent who doesn’t set boundaries for their children will never control the gate when the child is an adolescent. Boundaries are not fortresses. Boundaries are protection. Children who are not given this protection are frequently the ones who abuse the personal space of others.


I may see this as a more serious problem having taught school for many years, several of those in secondary public schools. What I experienced in the halls and classrooms, and this was several years back, made me even more determined that my own children would respect authority and the rules that make our civilization with all its faults work as well as it does. I recall a student that was frequently tardy to first period in a ninth grade class I taught. One day he made the mistake of saying to me, “I can’t help it. My mother didn’t wake me up.” On that particular day he had hit my last nerve. I emphatically told him and of course the rest of the class, “I have three children at home. They get themselves out of bed and ready for school. My ten year old prepares her own breakfast. And my two sons, younger than her, get themselves to the bus stop by 7:30. Don’t tell me it’s your mother’s fault you are late for school.”  He was never late again. Sometimes good old fashioned shame has its place.


You can imagine how the recent news of students beating their teacher brought me to a brewing point in my mind and should bring our nation to the boiling point.  There is a reason elders are put in the position of authority. Not because they are always right or perfect or above reproach but primarily because they have lived longer in this world and paid the dues that put them there.


Children who are taught respect make it over the hurdles with much more ease than those who think the world owes them a lift when they approach those hurdles. Hurdles are not road blocks. The process of growing to adulthood requires learning how to maneuver hurdles. Then it demands that we all learn how to take detours when real roadblocks stop us in our tracks.


Ever single mother knows about the hurdles and has experienced at least a few roadblocks. But being the lone parent most of the time if not all the time makes it difficult to be the boundary setter. Perhaps it would be easier to think of them as protection posts along the fence.

Thinking long term—what do you want to hear your adult child say to you? “Mom, I hate you for not teaching me how the world works!” or “Mom, I appreciate the lessons that prepared me for the realities of life.”

Gail headshot
Gail holds a degree from Lamar University in Speech and a Master’s from the University of Texas. She married Sam after raising three children as a single mother. She was an educator in regular and special education for eighteen years, finishing her professional career as a Braille teacher. In 2007 She founded SMORE for Women. SMORE is a nonprofit association whose goal is Single Moms, Overjoyed, Rejuvenated, & Empowered. She is a Women’s Transition Coach and her stories have been published in several Christian books and magazines.

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