Boundaries with Kids

Over the past few months I’ve been meeting with my good friend Claire to read and discuss Boundaries with Kids by Cloud and Townsend. Out of the handful of parenting books that I’ve read, this is one of my favorites so far. Of course, it always helps to have a good friend or friends to discuss with.

I’m afraid that if I start to share all the highlights from this book, I’ll end up retyping the whole thing here. But I’m going to try my best to just give a brief overview and hopefully whet your appetite enough that you will go pick it up and check it out for yourself.

One thing I loved about this book is that it was the perfect mix of explaining Cloud and Townsend’s parenting philosophy and sharing specific examples. I’m the type that needs specific examples. They help me remember the philosophies behind the examples…if I’m just reading about the philosophies, there’s no chance I’m going to remember. I need a picture in my mind, a story to tell, etc. This book had just the right mix of explaining and showing.

Another thing I liked is that they explained developmentally where kids are at during different ages and phases in life, so that we know what we can expect from them and what we need to do to help them grow from where they’re at.

This book is also based on biblical principles and incorporates verses to back up their philosophy. Always a good thing in my book!

Part I discussed why children need boundaries. Basically, kids need boundaries in order to develop character. This section went into details about character, why raising kids with character is so important, and what that looks like in their future. This section also included the important chapter about kids needing parents with boundaries. It was important for me to read–“Your child is reacting to your parenting.” And they also addressed obstacles to teaching boundaries–“The kid’s job is to test your resolve, so she can learn about reality. Your job is to withstand the test, including anger, pouting, tantrums, and much more.” Easier said than done, right?

Part II went into the 10 guiding principles of boundaries.

1. The Law of Sowing and Reaping: Basically, kids need to experience consequences for their actions, and better now, when the consequences are minimal, than later when the consequences may be a job, marriage, etc. The general guideline here is to give kids choices, and a proper amount of freedom, but require responsibility. However, when they make bad choices, consequences need to be given, and as much as possible, those consequences need to be in direct relation to the “crime”. I also love how they stress the point of being loving throughout the book and always responding with empathy to our children when disciplining and enforcing consequences.

2. The Law of Responsibility: This is a huge one…teaching kids to take responsibility for themselves, their choices and decisions, behavior and problems is something I think is so important. We want our children to become mature adults who “see themselves as problem solvers instead of trying to find someone else to blame or to solve problems for them”. One point that really jumped out at me as something I need to do as well, is “teach your kids, whenever they have a problem, first to examine what they may have done to contribute to the problem.” I also took note that (to some extent) it’s important to share our own weaknesses with our kids, so they learn that we’re not perfect.

3. The Law of Power: This is all about teaching our kids about what they have power over and what they don’t. This is a balancing act–we need to teach our kids that they can’t do everything they want and that they aren’t in control of everything, but also teach them to become more responsible as they get older and learn to make positive decisions on their own. This ties in with learning to avoid negative consequence by making good decisions.

One super practical tip I gleaned from this chapter is: “If you aren’t sure about your child’s request, simply say no. If you can’t say yes wholeheartedly, you may be giving grudgingly or under compulsion. Moreover, remember that the parent who says no and then changes her mind is a hero, but the one who says yes and then no is a traitor.”

4. The Law of Respect: I’m sure we can all agree about the importance of teaching our kids The Golden Rule, and teaching them that they aren’t the only one who matters. This chapter talks about respecting others, and also talks about respecting boundaries. One of the points that is made over and over again throughout the book is the importance of not only setting limits, but sticking to those limits in love, and empathizing with our children while being firm with our boundaries.

The following laws deal with motivation; experiencing pain in order to grow; teaching kids to respond maturely to problems; envy, and teaching thankfulness and gratitude to our children; activity, and teaching our kids to take initiative; and all about honesty.

In Part III they give six steps to implementing boundaries with your kids.

I learned so much from reading this book…now the tricky part is putting it into practice. This is one of those books I will probably reference for years and go back to again and again. It has helpful principles for parents of toddlers through teenagers. And the best part is that I learned a lot about myself and areas I need to grow in and work on as well. I highly recommend this book!

What’s a helpful parenting book you’ve read?

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2 Responses to Boundaries with Kids

  1. kelley says:

    this looks like a great book. maybe i will have to borrow it from you one day.

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