Jesus called Himself the Good Shepherd. I am called to reflect Him. It’s a fitting analogy, because being a shepherd is like being a parent. Shepherds protect and provide for the sheep. They do this through a number of ways. One of the most significant ways is giving them an environment in which to grow. For the sheep, this is a farm or pasture.
And this farm requires boundaries — a fence around an area that will protect them and also direct them. Give them too much area in which to roam and graze, and a predator can easily get in without the shepherd knowing. Give them too limited an area to roam, and their growth becomes stifled due to not having freedom.
The same is true of our children. We are their Shepherds. We are not called to primarily control them, but to create an environment in which they can grow into the man/woman God has desired them to become. Being overly harsh, controlling, and strict results in a child that feels helpless and powerless. This results in an adult who then is passive; or on the other extreme, very angry and reactionary against authority. Being overly permissive with our children often results in them believing they are the authority, and more so — the “center” of the universe. As an adult, they become self-centered and “pride-full.”
This topic of boundaries is huge one! It can be debated and become divisive. My intention is not to advocate for specific boundaries or specific ways we discipline when boundary lines are crossed. My intention is to begin talking about the need for boundaries in general within our families, and how important things like consistency, clarity, and consequences are. So I want to explore this together…
First — boundaries begin with love.
Before any “fence” can be constructed with our kids and boundaries created, they need to know and feel LOVE. The entire foundation or “soil” upon which we build these boundaries has to be love. More than saying that to them, they need to both hear and feel that from us – many times a day.
Love is a word that means everything and means nothing in our culture. I love my wife, but I also love football, ice cream, movies, and warm showers. It’s a word that is watered down so much that it means little. So I try to use the word “enjoy” with my kids sometimes. “Jonah,” I say. “I really enjoy being with you so much. I loved going to the beach with you, son.” Enjoy is not a word used very often, so I use it to make them feel especially loved — uniquely loved. Our kids want to know they are cherished. Why? Because we are uniquely loved by our heavenly Father. In communicating our enjoyment to our kids, we are reflecting His enjoyment as well. Love is the foundation. Let’s start there… and end there as well. 😌