When God gives you three children that not only have three distinct personalities but actually three distinctly different cultures within themselves, the cookie cutter parenting is not going to work. I think this is why I realized that ‘methods’ don’t work. Each of our kids have unique ways of interpreting life and relating to the world around them. – different cultures. We concluded that God designed each to be powerful and useful in His Kingdom. How were we as parents to steward these ‘forces from God’, so that they could be creative and not destructive? The picture we got was of a raging river. As long as the river stays within its banks or boundaries, it can be productive, bring life, fun, power but if it overflows its’ boundaries it becomes destructive and harmful. Here we were with three raging rivers to steward for the Kingdom of God, how was this to look? What boundaries were for all and what boundaries were for each child?
Bethany was our biggest boundary pusher. She was determined not be be ‘boxed in’. When her and Boone got married, Papa Jack, who officiated the wedding, laughed as he instructed us not to ever let anyone put them in a box! He said, “They are so far out there, it would kill them.” That was evident in Beth as a little girl. If things were going smooth at home, she would figure some way to shake it up a bit. If all the little girls were wearing pink bows and lace, she wore red cowboy boots, a denim vest three times too big, and a straw cowboy hat from Mexico with her dress on Sundays! Because she is quiet in spirit with a beautiful smile, people sometimes sadly mistake her for passive! She is bold, opinionated and strong. She has questioned her professor in class on anti-Christian values and flustered the professor that she dismissed class repeatedly when Bethany would question her. However by the end of the semester, the professor asked to walk across campus with Bethany and asked her about Bethany’s strong beliefs. One time Bethany was not being seen by a basketball coach, we tried to encourage our kids to handle conflict on their own. She had decided to go to a different school because she did not see herself ever getting to play and was told that she would not ever be an offensive player. Randy went with her to tell her coach. She started off by saying, “Since I’ve been here, I have felt there is a lid on me.” The coach who is a good man asked, “Why?” She said, “Because religion always tries to tame passion.” Randy said he was never so proud and at the same time wanted to crawl under the table! That sums up Bethany. She runs on passion. So how were we to not ‘tame’ her, but discipline her to run in boundaries of the Kingdom?
We learned the life given in setting boundaries from our kids. We learned to look for the immovable boundaries of the Kingdom. ie. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul and might and Love your neighbor as your self. Another was the to join God in His mission for the world. Another boundary is to work hard. Work was given to us before the fall. Work is a blessing. These are a few of what we considered non-negotiable boundaries for our family. If you read the previous blog on Identity, these boundaries as well as a few more became our family’s identity. It is not what we do, it is who we are. After setting the family boundaries, the challenge became how to implement them into each child’s life and how to train each child to govern and set their own boundaries as they matured.
The 1st tool was instituting consequences for crossing boundaries. For our family this involved spanking. I am not wanting to make this a blog about spanking and I realize that many readers are opposed to spanking or are in nations that forbid spanking. I believe that God can use your creativity as you parent your children. The point is, there HAS to be consequences that are felt for bad choices. When David sinned with Bathsheba, the consequence was that their 1st child together died. David was forgiven and restored with God, but there was consequence. AND there was redemption, Jesus came from this linage! In the world today, we have got to raise our children to be mature, to take responsibility for their bad choices and yes, suffer consequences but also bring them into full restoration. So Randy and I agreed that we would send the kids to their room while we collected our emotions to make sure we never disciplined out of anger. We held to three quick small stinging but not marking swats, we talked and hugged each time. Most of the time we held to this. Hopefully we were conveying that there are consequences for crossing boundaries, but there is redemption as well.
Definitely, we did not ‘parent’ perfectly. So many times I have filled my pillow with tears because of my lacking as a parent to my kids. Randy being the teacher that he is would always correct by teaching with usually three points! He is and was a more consistent parent than me. I am emotional by heart and I want to know heart feelings. I will prod, argue whatever it takes to get at the root. But so many times, I mess up. So many times, I go to the kids and ask for their forgiveness. Still today, I will say to little or too much or force a point too hard. UGH. However, there is something in the asking and giving of forgiveness that brings a family closer together.
Setting boundaries is scary. Boundaries allow for a lot of play room on the field, a lot of individual expression. It’s scary because as parents the second tool we have to use is faith. Faith that God will direct our paths, because the walk with each child is not clear and is not pre-cut. We are blazing a new trail with each child. We start with identity! Then we set Kingdom non-negotiable boundaries. Then we set consequences for crossing those boundaries. Then together with the child we design how the individual boundaries work. For example, we had a set bed time for all the kids. Some nights we would alter bed times for Josiah and Hannah, almost never did we alter Bethany’s bedtime. You may feel that was unfair, she did. However, we realized quickly that if we changed her boundaries she would try to push even further the next night. We told her the reasoning behind our decision. We were always honest and open with the kids. Also, when Randy first began traveling, I would try to make it an extra special time for the kids. I basically would get us out of our individual boundaries and go off our schedule. It did not take long to realize that this only promoted chaos and insecurity in all the kids, but ironically, especially Bethany. Boundaries create security and our little boundary pusher was in need of boundaries so that she could have the security to be creative and wild within those boundaries. Security breeds a sense of freedom!
A third part of setting Kingdom boundaries that we had to confront is the disciplining of attitudes. Often we only discipline or correct behavior, but the Kingdom is concerned about the heart. We therefore, set up boundaries and corrected attitudes as well. Hannah became the bigger recipient of this correction. Rolling eyes, stomping off to do chores, or sticking out tongues were not acceptable even if the work was being done, the heart was not pliable! We accidentally started doing this. It was God directing us in our ignorance. I think that this has been a key foundation of our kids’ personal boundaries. They have become successful young adults because they check their hearts as well as their actions.
A fourth component of setting boundaries is the intermingling of discipline and love. Some respected friends of ours once told us that dad was the discipline and mom was the love. We both immediately got a check inside our hearts about that statement. God disciplines those He loves. If we love our child we will discipline him/her. Love and discipline are interchangeable. There is not one without the other! If we love our children, we will discipline them. I never understood when people would say it hurts me to discipline my child. I always figured that’s what love is and I love my child, so I discipline him/her. Does it take energy? YES! Being a parent who really loves their child requires energy and the ability for the love of your child to override any personal embarrassment. Often parents will ignore a child’s bad choices in public because of the threat of embarrassment, but actually this ignorance only serves to perpetuate embarrassment. We always stood and removed our child from the public view. If we were not in a place where immediate consequences of their bad choices could be felt, we would tell them that when we got home they were going to ‘be in trouble.’ The challenge to this was our kids were smart. From that point until we got home they would be perfect, hoping to cause my parental mind to want to keep the peace over disciplining bad choices. It took energy and fortitude to carry through.
As our children grow, hopefully the Kingdom boundaries have become their identity. We as parents must help them and release them into setting their own boundaries in order to stay true to their base identity boundaries. Our children are adults but we continue to pray like crazy and serve as council and accountability so that they do not compromise their place in the Kingdom and to encourage them to go further than we have with God! Even before our kids were moving into the teen years, we started asking them questions to help them set their own boundaries. “How do the kids talk in the locker room?” “What are you going to do if kids start telling dirty jokes or talking inappropriately?” “What are you going to do if they make fun of you for being a Christian?” “How are you going to make sure that you stay sexually pure?” And now, to our adult children the questions may look like, “As you are making all this money, how are you budgeting?” “What is your heart toward changing the world?” “Have you talked to anyone about Jesus this week” “Are you protecting your marriage?” “Are you being a good friend?” and so on. Questions are tools we can use to help us set good boundaries. We must help our children learn to ask their own questions.
Somehow, by God Himself, using our simple hearts and good tries, God created in our three opposite personality children a commonality to Love Him, to be good with being different, to expect and embrace loneliness, to respect themselves, to be leaders, not to be afraid to stand for Him, to live ‘all in’ for Jesus. Boundaries produce an environment of creativity, freedom and security. Life is experienced when we run wild for God in the boundaries of the Kingdom!
Our sweet smiling boundary pusher, Bethany and her husband, Boone. They are untamable!
Originally posted February 16, 2017