While exploring the grounds of an old castle, we strolled down this beautiful tree-lined drive and admired the huge red iron gate sitting at the end of the drive. No doubt it protects the inhabitants of the property, providing safety, keeping out unwelcome guests or predators, and keeping animals and children in. It marks the property line too with a quietly bold statement: here is where our line lies, here is where our authority begins and yours ends.
Boundaries for life, parenting, marriage and family are like that too.
I hate saying "no" to anyone. I grieve over having to say it. God has been showing me that wanting to please people all the time and keep peace is a pride issue, not the beautiful gift of being a peacemaker.
Sean and I used to talk in private about family issues that arose and I'd try to sweep them under the mat. Forgive and forget. Obviously, those aren't the healthiest ways of handling conflict and we found ourselves discussing more and more what we would allow and what we wouldn't allow to affect our home and children.
When we examine boundaries for our family, here is what we look at:
In relationships and friendships we keep an eye out for the health of a relationship. Is it healthy if we're always called upon to defend our parenting, defend our spouse, or defend anything at all about our family life? (I appreciate honest, curious questions and those aren't what I'm referencing.) Healthy friendships and family life are so vital to me in this job of parenting my children. I have enough doubts that I bring before God about doing things properly as a Mama and I don't need those added to.
Spiritual Boundaries - Am I allowing seed to be put into my children's minds that goes against the absolute truth found in the word of God?
One example for our family involves the movies we allow our kiddos to watch. We read in the Bible that God hates witchcraft. Can I then willingly let my daughters (or sons) watch any movie that portrays any witchcraft or magic, coming from any source other than God, as good? Someone eloquently put it as the "cute-ifying" of evil because cute = good, right?
A way that we set in place another spiritual boundary is by talking continually with our children about what we believe and why we believe it and the Biblical, historic, and scientific evidence that confirms our beliefs. Tonight on the way home from the grocery store, my nine year old and I talked about a strip club we passed and the implications of all that. We talk about anything. Even the hanky-panky Mr. Duck does on the front lawn with Mrs. Duck. :) Because if our kids don't learn the right way from us, they'll listen to anything the culture tells them and grab ahold of it.
Mental Boundaries - Am I allowing my children to be stressed, tired, worried, hurt, scared...
The world is a harsh place. Home is a safe place. Am I protecting my children's hearts? I haven't always been able to. They've been lied to and let down and had promises broken and sat on my lap and cried. That hurts. I know I cannot protect them from everything. If someone hurts your children once, shame on them. If they hurt them twice, shame on you.
I also don't believe it is healthy for children to hear their parents being spoken of falsely or in a ill way or being spoken to in a disrespectful manner. Can I tell you the words I wish I could take back speaking disrespectfully about some of the people I love when I was younger? I did what was modeled. Sean knows there are people I won't talk about if I'm asked. I brush it off sweetly, change the subject. I've been gossiped about and it isn't pleasant. I won't "prayer request" gossip either. We don't like hearing our children spoken to disrespectfully. Here lies our gate, our property line. That doesn't happen here.
Physical Boundaries - Am I allowing my children to be bullied or harmed in any way?
We are very careful who our children's playmates are, we know their close friends and their close friend's parents. We don't allow them to be alone with any child, teen or adult that we don't know. We have two babysitters that we trust and love and even then, we talk to the kids afterward. If you think we are paranoid, google the statistics of child abuse or molestation.
I love that our children's wing at church is a safe place for our kids. The workers have back ground checks and there are security boundaries in place to protect my kiddos while they are away from me for a bit.
If we're out in a public place, and the boys need to use the rest-room, I stand right outside it and listen. When they come out, I ask them who else was in the room, did anyone talk to them, did anyone look at them or do anything to make them uncomfortable? If someone walks into the mens room while my boys are in there, I'll even carry on a conversation with my boys from the door. I appreciate when those strange men smile at that and nod in approval when they walk past me.
Our children are not allowed free access to the computer. This is another safety boundary we have in our home.
Let me say that putting up boundaries in relationships isn't giving the cold shoulder. I think you have to bring all things before God in prayer, every difficult relationship, every conflict, marital or relational or otherwise.
Our memory verse on our chalkboard right now speaks of being a peacemaker and having patience with difficult people. I'm sure that applies as much to me as to anyone else with me wearing the crown of "Miss Difficult" sometimes. I put it up there more for me than for the children this week.
Those are the boundaries for our family that I can think of off the bat. What are some of yours?