“If your boundary training consists only of words, you are wasting your breath. But if you ‘do’ boundaries with your kids, they internalize the experiences, remember them, digest them, and make them part of how they see reality.”
― Henry Cloud
MOST parents take seriously the incredibly important protective nature of boundaries, but too few engage in actually training their kids. It is too late when a child is abused – generally in secret – and commonly by people they know. Training in boundaries, awareness of unsafe situations, and knowledge of the inherent evil in this world – these are all things our kids should be skilled in. They are things we should all be skilled in.
I was told recently, as a pastor, I should never say to a believer in the congregation, “You must...!” It’s okay, it’s not my nature to tell people they must, but on this sort of topic, God justifies the exception – not to tolerate abuse, grooming, and other inappropriate boundary-crossing behaviours.
We need to be watchful for those who implicitly break down and fail to respect boundaries. We need to teach our children and the vulnerable about such things. But we also need to teach by example.
What we tolerate we accept, and what we accept becomes us. It comes into our lives. It comes in and it makes itself a home. Tolerating those in our lives that continue to break boundaries – implicating fear, discomfort, anxiousness, and even depression, in us – is a recipe for eventual disaster.
How we train our children and the other vulnerable people in our lives is by talking frequently about safety, including using real-life scenarios that happen right in front of our eyes. Why would we not go into a public toilet and check the cubicle before our sons or daughters went there? Or, are we always going to allow those with easy access to our children that ease of access. We have to be on the look out – “Abuse – not on my watch!”
We must protect those who rely on us for their safety.
We must endeavour to give them the skills of discerning unsafe situations in their gut – and empower them to get out!
It only takes an errant few minutes for someone to damage a loved one or friend. Prevention is infinitely better than cure. There is great benefit in keeping boundaries front of mind in the family context.
The greatest skill we can teach our kids and the vulnerable is how to protect themselves; to empower them to get out of unsafe situations. Boundaries are incredibly protective in nature. The person who intentionally disrespects boundaries – the one who makes us squirm – we should not tolerate. We should call it for what it is.
When we train our children to respect boundaries they learn not to transgress others. It’s our job to train them about appropriate boundaries.
© 2014 S. J. Wickham.