April 20, 2023
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If you watch sports very much, you've no doubt seen some great plays that ended up not counting, because they made that great play out of bounds. Oh, I've seen many arguments over whether or not they actually were out of bounds at the time; many of them have been resolved by video replay. But you don't see arguments over where the boundaries are. No, everybody knows that when they go out on the field, right, or the court, and they know exactly what the penalties are going to be for breaking the rules.
I'm Ron Hutchcraft and I want to have A Word With You today about "How to Raise Kids Who Stay In Bounds."
If you don't have clear boundaries and clear penalties, you can't have a game. If children don't have clear boundaries and clear penalties, they can't have a life! Everywhere you look these days, you see kids who are out of control, as if there's no such thing as out of bounds. Guess where they learned that? From parents who never taught or never consistently enforced boundaries.
Disciplining your child? It's not an option; it's a Biblical mandate for moms and dads. Our word for today from the Word of God, Proverbs 29:17, says, "Discipline your son and he will give you peace; he will bring delight to your soul." How to have a child who gives you peace and makes you happy: discipline them.
Discipline is one of the highest forms of love for your child. It's a love that cares how far they get, and it does something to bring them back when they've gone too far. Proverbs 13:24 says, "He who spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is careful to discipline him." This would be a good time to make the all-important distinction between discipline and punishment. When you discipline your child, you respond thoughtfully in the way from which they will learn the most. When you punish, you're just dumping your anger on them. All they learn from that is you're out of control.
Here's how seriously Scripture takes our responsibility to help our children learn that "what you sow, you reap." It says, "Discipline your son, for in that there is hope; do not be (this is strong) a willing party to his death" (Galatians 6:7). So how do we help our kids learn to stay in bounds and live under control? Well, it's just like sports: clear boundaries, clear penalties, consistently and quickly enforced.
There need to be clear, unmoving boundaries in your home, stopping them before they go too far but allowing them enough room to make some choices. And there need to be clear penalties that define exactly what will happen if they do go out of bounds.
Too many parents either decide the boundary or the penalty in the heat of a confrontation ("OK, you're grounded for a year!") or they just keep changing the boundaries or the penalties. Can you imagine the chaos that would cause in a sporting event? It causes that kind of confusion in the life of your child. The boundaries, the penalties, they need to be discussed in advance; not in the middle of some tense situation.
As kids get older, they should even have some input; not the deciding vote, but input into the final decision. Family sanity is based on clear boundaries and clear penalties, decided and discussed in advance, and then quickly and consistently enforced. The refs don't blow the whistle when the player is running through the bleachers with the ball. Right? They blow the whistle the second his or her foot touches the line. Take the time to enforce the boundaries early, and ultimately, you'll reap a more peaceful home.
One more thing: the refs need to agree on where the boundaries and penalties are and what calls that are made. Mom and Dad can disagree in private about disciplinary decisions, but please never in front of the kids. Not if you want your children to respect your authority.
If you've been lax or inconsistent in helping your children understand the boundaries and penalties, actually ask them to forgive you. Let them know that, before God, you owe it to them to do a better job of "ref-ing" the game of their life. Clarity, consistency, mutual trust and walking your talk: those are building blocks in authority that a child can respect and build a life on.