Monday, January 14, 2008

Lighten Up or Tighten Up? A Note on Parenting

Two days before Christmas I looked out my back window and spotted a neighbor in the woods behind our houses ripping down a fence that seperates the residential lots from the privately owned property behind us. In fact, he was commiting theft because the fence does not belong to him but to the owner of the land. He continued tearing down the fence and the poles that supported it. Piece by piece he carried the parts into his yard and hid them in his garage. A few nights later, my son noticed that he had loaded the parts into his truck and drove off. We were puzzled at why this man would be so desperate that he would steal a chain link fence. Also, it was strange that he removed a segment of the fence from behind his house and from behind our other neighbor's home. However, the section of fencing directly behind our house was untouched. Maybe he knew we were home as I did notice that he kept looking toward our house as he was doing his work.

This event had me contemplating fences and how fences represent boundaries. This young man maybe had no boundaries as he was growing up and was free to roam and do as he pleased. He may not have been taught anything about consideration of other's property. Who knows. I am not here to judge the motiives of why he was stealing the fence. But I have been considering the whole concept of boundaries in parenting our children.

In our society of crumbling morals and decaying values, we as parents need to guard against falling to extremes. One extreme is that we become too relaxed which leads to being passive in our parenting. Just as the fence behind our home was removed and stolen, this same concept can happen easily even with parents of good intentions. Examples of this would be allowing our children to hang out with whomever they would choose or watching any movie that they would like. Also they would be free to act out any frustration with no consequences or look at anything they choose on the internet to read or view. These are extreme examples. However, one can turn on the news or read the newspaper to see that these are often the norm in our society today.

Even though most parents are well meaning, they can cave into this type of parenting to some degree. It is quite easy to become desensitized to this boundary deficient culture. We may do a good job raising our children when things are going well. But it is tempting to just let things slide when we are tired or going through dire circumstances. Many times it is just easier to feel good that to do good. In the book, "Grace Based Parenting", the author says that "raising kids with clear moral boundaries can be an extremely lonely job."

This brings us to the other extreme that can be as equally toxic to children. This type of parenting is based on an over reaction to a culture without boundaries. This refers to bringing in boundaries in far more tightly than they need to be to effectively train their children. These parents restrict and control everything. They tighten the fence regarding every area of their child's life thinking they are making it safer for their children to go through life. They think that this will be the derermining factor of how their children will turn out. There are clear moral boundaries which are set. This is needed. However, they have added an inner fence to make it more difficult for their children to even see beyond the boundaries of grace God has provided.

The key word here is grace. God parents us according to His grace and truth. We must periodically take inventory of the boundaries we have set for our children. Are they based on grace? Or have we constructed inner fences that are too tight and unnecessary? Maybe we have let our guard down and we have loose or no boundaries because we have been bogged down by trying circumstances and fatigue.

God's way of parenting us is by His gift of grace. We too must examine His model of parenting and apply this to our own parenting. God looks deep into our hearts and sees our need. He sees our needs because He knows our needs. In order to know the needs of our children we must understand what those are. This is what the next blog will be on. Knowing and recognizing the needs of our children and how grace is the key to effective parenting.

(Note:Some of my thoughts were based on the book, GRACE BASED PARENTING, by Dr. Tim Kimmel). This is one of the most scriptually inspired parenting books I personally have ever read. I would encourage you to get the book)

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