"And you must commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these commands that I am giving you today. Repeat them again and again to your children. Talk about them when you are at home" Deuteronomy 6:5-6
Do your teenagers really want boundaries? While I'm sure they will never seriously say to you, "Can
you please add some more restrictions to my life?" they really do want to know what's expected of
them and what the consequences of violating boundaries will be. In homes where parents set clear
boundaries for their kids' behavior, kids are actually less likely to rebel---especially when parents
take the time to discuss their expectations with them. Let me give you some reasons why kids want
boundaries in their lives:
1) Boundaries provide a sense of comfort. When kids clearly know what is expected from them, the
result is a sense of comfort. They don't have to be concerned regarding what you may or may not
require of them behaviorally---or fear that you will constantly change the rules.
2) Boundaries provide a sense of security. Kids really do want to know what is right and what is
wrong. They want some guidance in navigating life. Clear boundaries provide the stability and
security that will allow them to thrive.
3) Boundaries mark out the "playing field" for freedom. In sports, a marked playing field lets players
know where their boundaries are. Similarly, kids want their parents to set clear boundaries for them
so they can know their "playing field"---where they can roam freely "in bounds." Boundaries, in this
way, actually create freedom for teens.
4) Most teenagers don't really want to be totally free and responsible for themselves at this point in
their lives. Kids who have no boundaries and are completely on their own in decision-making tend to
feel isolated and are at risk for giving into peer pressure. Kids who have boundaries can use them
as reasons to say no to inappropriate behaviors.
5) Kids want to gain their parents' trust---the trust that results from living within clear boundaries.
Teens know that having your trust is the pathway to greater freedom and ultimately to adult
independence. Kids who have clear boundaries and live within those boundaries understand that
they are regularly making deposits into your "trust" account. This, of course, doesn't mean that kids
with boundaries don't ever violate those boundaries or ever struggle with earning or regaining trust
with their parents. Most do from time to time. Still, with boundaries in place, your kids will have a
greater understanding of how to build trust with you.
By Jim Burns