Parental Boundaries and Limits

By Danny Huerta
Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on pinterest
Share on print
Share on email
Choreograph/iStock/Thinkstock
Kids need clear boundaries and limits. Find out how boundaries and limits are part of the seven essential traits of parenting.
Have you ever played a game where the rules were not clearly understood, where no player was ever “out of bounds”? If so, you know about the chaos that ensues. The same is true of parenting—kids need clear boundaries. Not long ago, researchers from the University of Washington discovered that overly permissive parents tend to have children who are more entitled than their peers and tend to be the bullies in their social groups. But implementing boundaries can be tricky. When rules and expectations are enforced without love, grace and respect, the family atmosphere turns legalistic, without much room for grace and forgiveness. In my counseling practice, I’ve met several families in which parents have wanted me to “fix” their child’s behavior problems. As I talked with these children and their parents, it became clear that the real issue was a lack of clear boundaries in their home, or rules that were too strict and not applied with love and grace.
Related Content: Take our free 7 Traits of Effective Parenting Assessment to see where you rank in the area of boundaries and limits.
As parents, we often don’t have the energy or capacity to be perfectly consistent with the limits and boundaries we design for our home. I’ve had many moments where I’ve let standards slide. But our goal should be overall consistency in pursuing this trait, even if we have moments when we fall short. Boundaries laced with love, respect and grace provide several important benefits to kids:

Maturity and Discipline

The real world is filled with rules and limitations. Kids who understand healthy boundaries learn what it means to grow up and be more like an adult. They learn to confidently say “yes” and “no” without fear of what people think. They develop an ability to wait for rewards and contribute to a team effort.

Respect

Kids raised with boundaries learn to listen and respond to authority. Interestingly, discipline from parents is often seen as an opportunity to learn something, even though it doesn’t seem good in the moment.

Security

When kids understand expectations, they develop a stronger sense of safety and security. They understand what happens when they follow rules, even if they sometimes challenge those boundaries. Testing boundaries helps kids see what the true limits are, and when parents consistently enforce these boundaries, children’s desire to test limits diminishes. (Inconsistent enforcement can create frequent, tiresome battles.)

Enjoyment

Kids who recognized a predictable structure of family life are able to focus on fun and enjoyment rather than trying to figure out what rules are going to get them in trouble. These kids also don’t get hyper-focused on fairness and structure with friends or at school, because their home life helps them see that life, overall, has a healthy structure.

Copyright © 2017 by Focus on the Family

Share:
Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on pinterest
Share on print
Share on email

About the Author

Danny Huerta Media Profile
Danny Huerta

As vice president of the Parenting and Youth department, Danny oversees Focus’ initiatives that equip parents to disciple and mentor the next generation, so that they can thrive in Christ.

You May Also Like

Thank you [field id="first_name"] for signing up to get the free downloads of the Marrying Well Guides. 

Click the image below to access your guide and learn about the counter-cultural, biblical concepts of intentionality, purity, community and Christian compatibility.

(For best results use IE 8 or higher, Firefox, Chrome or Safari)

To stay up-to-date with the latest from Boundless, sign up for our free weekly e-newsletter.


If you have any comments or questions about the information included in the Guide, please send them to [email protected]

Click here to return to Boundless

Focus on the Family

Thank you for submitting this form. You will hear from us soon. 

The Daily Citizen

The Daily Citizen from Focus on the Family exists to be your most trustworthy news source. Our team of analysts is devoted to giving you timely and relevant analysis of current events and cultural trends – all from a biblical worldview – so that you can be inspired and assured that the information you share with others comes from a reliable source.

Alive to Thrive is a biblical guide to preventing teen suicide. Anyone who interacts with teens can learn how to help prevent suicidal thinking through sound practical and clinical advice, and more importantly, biblical principles that will provide a young person with hope in Christ.

Bring Your Bible to School Day Logo Lockup with the Words Beneath

Every year on Bring Your Bible to School Day, students across the nation celebrate religious freedom and share God’s love with their friends. This event is designed to empower students to express their belief in the truth of God’s Word–and to do so in a respectful way that demonstrates the love of Christ.

Focus on the Family’s® Foster Care and Adoption program focuses on two main areas:

  • Wait No More events, which educate and empower families to help waiting kids in foster care

  • Post-placement resources for foster and adoptive families

Christian Counselors Network

Find Christian Counselors, Marriage & Family Therapists, Psychologists, Social Workers and Psychiatrists near you! Search by location, name or specialty to find professionals in Focus on the Family’s Christian Counselors Network who are eager to assist you.

Boundless is a Focus on the Family community for Christian young adults who want to pursue faith, relationships and adulthood with confidence and joy.

Through reviews, articles and discussions, Plugged In exists to shine a light on the world of popular entertainment while giving you and your family the essential tools you need to understand, navigate and impact the culture in which we live.

Have you been looking for a way to build your child’s faith in a fun and exciting way?
Adventures in Odyssey® audio dramas will do just that. Through original audio stories brought to life by actors who make you feel like part of the experience; these fictional, character-building dramas use storytelling to teach lasting truths.

Focus on the Family’s Hope Restored all-inclusive intensives offer marriage counseling for couples who are facing an extreme crisis in their marriage, and who may even feel they are headed for divorce.