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Boundaries with Kids Participant's GuideWhen to Say Yes, When to Say No, to Help Your Children Gain Control of Their Lives
By Henry Cloud John Townse
ZondervanCopyright © 2003 Zondervan
All right reserved.
Chapter OneSession One
Building Character in Kids
Before We Start
1. What role(s) do you play in kids' lives? Parent Daycare worker Teacher Babysitter or nanny Grandparent Church youth worker Coach Sunday school teacher Neighbor Other:
2. What do you hope to gain from this course? Put differently, which of the following, if any, are currently issues involving the kid(s) in your life? Impulsivity Aggressive behavior School problems Conflicts with friends Defying authority Sexual involvement Whining Drugs Procrastination Gangs Inability to finish tasks Inattention to parental directives Things are going well- and I want to keep it that way!
In this session, you will
Consider that parenting is best done with an eye to the future.
Look at three aspects of a parent's role: guardian, manager, and source.
Be introduced to the concept of boundaries. Begin to see the role boundaries can play in giving kids the motivation, the skills, and a plan for living a loving, responsible, righteous, and successful life unto God and others.
Explore eight key aspects of character. We want our children to be loving, responsible, free, initiating, respectful of reality, growing, oriented to truth, and oriented to transcendence.
Parenting with an Eye to the Future
One goal of parenting is to keep an eye on the future. We are raising our children to be responsible adults.
The issue in any parenting situation is this: Is what you are doing being done on purpose? Or are you doing it from reasons that you do not think about, such as your childhood, the need of the moment, your fears, or your own personality?
A person's character is one's destiny. Boundaries with Kids can assist you in helping your children develop the character that will lead them into the life that God created for them.
A boundary is a "property line" that defines where one person ends and someone else begins. If we know where a person's boundaries are, we know that we can expect this person to take control of himself or herself. We can require responsibility in regard to feelings, behaviors, and attitudes.
When boundaries are clear, children develop a well-defined sense of who they are and what they are responsible for; the ability to choose; the understanding that if they choose well, things will go well and that if they choose poorly, they will suffer; and the possibility of true love based in freedom. Self-control, responsibility, freedom, and love-what could be a better outcome of parenting than that?
But how does a child develop these characteristics? It happens as the parent or caretaker acts in three main capacities: that of guardian, manager, and source.
A guardian is legally responsible for a child and, in that capacity, protects and preserves the child. More often than not in their role as guardian, parents use boundaries to keep their child safe, growing, and healthy. 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-that goals are reached, demands and expectations are met. Children are not born with self-discipline; therefore they have to have "other-discipline." Boundaries play an important role in managing a child. 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 from the parent.
Parents are the source of all good things (material and immaterial) for a child. They are the bridge to the outside world of resources that sustain life. In both giving and receiving resources, boundaries play an important role. In the beginning, parents are the source. They progressively give children the independence to obtain what they need on their own.
Boundaries facilitate the process of having the child internalize things-feeling the need or motivation to take responsibility for himself, planning for and taking the time to act responsibly, developing the skills necessary to act responsibly-that were once external to him.
When parents take a stance of clear boundaries with a child, the child will have a better chance of gaining the motivation, the need, the skill, and the plan to live a loving, responsible, righteous, and successful life unto God and others. This is what character is all about.
What's a Mom to Do?
1. Why didn't Cameron feel the need to clean up his room? What kept him from being motivated to clean up?
2. Why didn't Cameron plan for or take the time to clean up? Why didn't he have the skill to organize his room?
3. Where, if at all, are you-like Allison-keeping your child from taking responsibility for himself?
4. What kind of boundaries could Allison establish for herself in order for her son to develop boundaries that would serve him well?
5. In what ways might you, like Allison, be parenting in the present without thinking about the future?
6. What can we, as parents, do to keep an eye on the future?
7. What possible courses of action could Allison take that would indicate that she has an eye on the future?
The Parent as Guardian, Manager, and Source
In small groups of three or four people, answer the questions below, giving each person an opportunity to share. You will have 10 minutes to complete this exercise.
1. A guardian is legally responsible for a child and, in that capacity, protects and preserves the child. Balancing freedom and limits becomes a major task in child rearing. Which of the following sources of danger is one of your children facing? Give an example of a boundary or limit you could set to protect your child. Who will help you stand strong as your child tests that limit?
Dangers within themselves
Dangers in the outside world
Inappropriate freedoms they are not ready to handle
Inappropriate or evil actions, behaviors, or attitudes
Their own regressive tendency to remain dependent and avoid growing up
2. A manager makes sure things get done-that goals are reached, demands and expectations are met. Children are not born with self-discipline; therefore they have to have "other-discipline." Managers provide this other-discipline for a child's needs by controlling resources, teaching, enforcing consequences, correcting, chastising, maintaining order, and building life skills. With which of the following situations are you currently dealing? What could a boundary-wise parent do? Be specific.
Getting homework done
Learning to be kind and loving
3. Parents are the source of all good things (material and immaterial) for a child. They are the bridge to the outside world of resources that sustain life. In both giving and receiving resources, boundaries play an important role. Think of a common scenario in your family where you tend to give too easily or to hold resources too tightly. What risk do you run with that tendency? At this point, what do you think you could do to counter that tendency?
Eight Key Aspects of Character
Dr. Cloud and Dr. Townsend outline eight qualities they consider important to adult functioning. In each of these qualities, boundaries play an essential developmental role:
Loving-Most parents would say that they want their children to be loving. Loving people recognize that the world does not revolve around them. They are able to control their impulses, respect the boundaries of others, and set boundaries for themselves so that they are responsible people whose actions are loving.
Responsible-Being responsible means taking ownership of your life. Ownership is to truly possess your life and to know that you are accountable for it-to God and others. Responsibility therefore includes such things as duty or obligations, reliability and dependability, and just "getting the job done." Responsible people also take ownership of their feelings, attitudes, behaviors, choices, limits, talents, thoughts, desires, values, and loves-things our boundaries define and protect.
Free-People with healthy character are free people. In sharp contrast to today's popular victim mentality, free people realize that they can act rather than remain passive in a situation, that they have choices and can take some control of their life. Children raised with good boundaries learn they are not only responsible for their lives but are also free to live their lives any way they choose-as long as they take responsibility for their choices.
Initiating-A normal part of human behavior is to initiate things. Being created in the image of God is being created with the ability to begin something. Teaching a child to initiate is an important aspect of boundary training.
Respectful of Reality-In order for someone to create a life that works he or she must have a healthy respect for reality. By reality we mean experiencing the consequences of our actions in the real world. Mature adults know that, for the most part, if they do good, good things will happen; if they do nothing or do something bad, bad things will happen. This dual respect for the positive and negative sides of reality is often referred to as wisdom.
Oriented to Growth-Good parenting can help a child develop character that faces the obstacles of life with an orientation toward growth. This includes developing abilities and gaining knowledge as well as facing negative things about oneself that invite growth and change. Boundaries help children see what is expected of them and how they might grow to meet those expectations. Parents should require their children to do the changing instead of trying to get reality to change.
Oriented to Truth-Honesty begins with parents who model it, require it from their children, and provide them with a safe environment in which to be honest. Boundaries provide the safety of known consequences for failure. Children can handle the known logical consequences of their mistakes much better than they can handle relational consequences like anger, guilt, shame, condemnation, or abandonment.
Oriented to Transcendence-The most important questions anyone can answer are "Who is God?" and "Is it me, or is it God?" Being grounded in God gives direction and meaning to human existence, allowing us to transcend life, problems, our own limitations and mistakes, and other people's sins against us. People who have the ability to transcend themselves go beyond their own existence to the reality of others, of God, and of virtues they hold more important than themselves and their own immediate happiness.
A child's character will determine much of the course his life takes. To develop a child of good character, we must be parents of good character.
Take 10 minutes to complete this exercise on your own or with your spouse. You will have a chance to complete this exercise and put it into action at home this week.
What are you doing or could you be doing to teach your children to be more loving and to be more respectful of people's boundaries?
When have you recently seen your child hesitate or even fail to take responsibility for her feelings, attitudes, behaviors, choices, limits, talents, thoughts, desires, values, or loves? Why did she hesitate? What was your response-and what do you want your response to be next time?
Where, if at all, are you letting your child claim to be a victim rather than encouraging him to be responsible for what is happening in his life? Consider, for instance, his friendships, school situations, and involvement in sports.
What are you doing (or could you be doing) to teach your child that he is responsible for his own fun, goals, and happiness and that he must actively pursue them?
RESPECTFUL OF REALITY
What are you doing or could you be doing to teach your child that accomplishment comes one day at a time, and that goofing off and laziness will cost her?
Being able to grow includes the ability to
Recover from distressing emotional states
Sustain periods of negative strain and delay gratification
Lose well, grieve, and let go of what cannot be reclaimed or won
Confess when you are wrong
Change behavior or direction when confronted with reality
Take ownership of a problem
Which of these abilities does your child need to work on? What will you do to help her?
ORIENTED TO TRUTH
What are you teaching your child about honesty through your words? Your actions? What logical consequences have you established or would you like to establish for those times when your child is less than honest?
ORIENTED TO TRANSCENDENCE
Without an orientation to transcend the realities of this life and touch the realities of God, people are very limited. What are you saying and doing to orient your child to transcendence? What step will you take this week? 23 Session One: Building Character in Kids
Almighty God, you call me to parent with an eye to the future and to serve as a guardian, manager, and source for my kids. You've chosen me to help my children become people who are loving, responsible, free, initiating, respectful of reality, growing, oriented to truth, and oriented to transcendence.
Excerpted from Boundaries with Kids Participant's Guide by Henry Cloud John Townse Copyright © 2003 by Zondervan
Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.