Parenting can be looked at in many different ways. Some see a parent as a coach, some as a police officer, some as a friend, some as God. In part, all of these roles have some truth to them.
In our view, the parent or caretaker role consists of these three main functions:
A guardian is legally responsible for a child and, in that capacity, protects and preserves the child. Why does a parent need to provide protection and preservation?
Children do not possess the wisdom for protecting and preserving their own lives. They do not know right from wrong, danger our from safe, good from better, life from death. They think not about the outcome of their actions, but about immediate gratification. Therefore, as they explore and discover their limits, they put themselves in danger. Wisdom comes only from experience—the big thing a child is short on.
A guardian provides the child with a safe environment for learning and gaining wisdom. Too little freedom to gain experience, and the child forever remains a child. Too much freedom, and the child is in danger of hurting himself. So balancing freedom and limits becomes a major task in child rearing. Parents must guard children from danger, protect them harm, and preserve their lives.
This protective guardian steps in with appropriate boundaries and limits to guard children from several sources of danger:
- Dangers within themselves
- Dangers in the outside world
- Inappropriate freedoms that they are not ready to handle
- Never appropriate or evil actions, behaviors, or attitudes (such as serial killing or using LSD)
- Their own regressive tendency to remain dependent and avoid growing up
Parents, in their role as guardian, keep the child safe, growing, and healthy. More often than not, they use boundaries to perform this function. They set limits to freedom, and then enforce them for the child’s protection. Through this process, the child internalizes the limits as wisdom and slowly begins to be able to take care of herself.
A manager makes sure things get done—goals are reached, demands and expectations are met. Children are not born with self-discipline; therefore they have to have “other-disciple.” Managers provide this other-discipline by making sure the child does the tasks at hand to meet the expectations important for her growth.
Manager provide this discipline by controlling resources, teaching, enforcing consequences, correcting, chastising, maintaining order, and building skills. They oversee the day-to-day hard work of reaching goals.
When Allison decided that she was going to guard Cameron from his wish to avoid being responsible for himself, she had to manager that process. As you may suspect, Cameron did not immediately sign up for the new plan! Allison had to set some goals, control the resources, and manage the consequences until her son developed the discipline that he would eventually need to get along well with someone other than Mom. In short, she had to manage his immaturity. For instance, she gave him time lines to learn to take care to his belonging and perform jobs around the house. She outlined what would happen if he did not, and she struck to the consequences that she promised to impose. He lost many privileges and learned the cost of being a slacker.
Boundaries play an important role in managing. Setting limits and requiring the child to take ownership (embracing the problem as his own) and responsibility (taking care of what he has embraced) entail a clear understanding of boundaries. We will take more about this later.
Children come into the world without resources. They don’t know where the food is, how to get shelter, or how to obtain the money they need for basic supplies. They have immaterial needs as well, without knowing how to meet them. They need love, spiritual growth, wisdom, support, and knowledge, all of which are out of their reach.
Parents are the source of all good things for a child. They are the bridge to the outside world of resources that sustain life. And in giving and receiving resources, boundaries play a very important role. Children need to learn how to receive and use responsibly what is given them and gradually take over the role of meeting their own needs. In the beginning, parents are the source; they progressively give the child the independence to obtain what they need on their own.
Being the source for children is fraught with blessing and difficulty. If parents give without boundaries, children learn to feel entitled and become self-centered and demanding. Ungratefulness becomes a character pattern. If parents hold resources too tightly, children give up and do not develop the hope of reaching goals that have gratifying rewards. We will see how boundaries help structure the resources and how they play an important role in parenting.
Learning to Take Responsibility
When Cameron was fist enlisted in the process of learning how to take responsibility for cleaning up, he was lacking several things:
- He did not feel the need to clean up. Mom felt that need.
- He did not feel motivated to clean up. Mom felt motivated.
- He did not plan for or take the time to clean up. Mom did.
- He did not have the skill to organize. Mom did.
So how did he learn to take responsibility for himself? There was a slow transfer of these qualities from the outside of Cameron to the inside. Whereas Mom possessed all the qualities insides inside of her and Cameron did not, boundaries reversed all that. In the end, Mom did not feel the need or the motivation, and she did not take the time or use her skills. Instead, Cameron did. Boundaries facilitated the process of having the child internalize things that were external to him. And in the final analysis, building boundaries in a child accomplishes this: what was once external become internal.
This Article is taken by Boundaries with Kids when to say Yes and when to say No.
Written by Arshad. A
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