Dads of grown children know the significance of relationships in the life of a child as he or she matures, and the necessity of clear boundaries at every stage. The message to younger dads is that it starts early in the immediate family. As a husband and wife mature into dad and mom in front of the child, their example from the get-go provides the foundation the child will reference throughout life.
During the second ten years of a child’s life, siblings, extended family and neighborhood friends will offer new dimensions of relationship. Then friends in school and extra-curricular activities may introduce conflicting influences that will need to be discussed. In today’s hyper-sexualized culture, it is critical to help a child establish boundaries to navigate through exposure to perverse influences. Help on this front is available with a great book, Good Pictures Bad Pictures, by Kristen Jenson. This is one resource that will help open dialogue with young kids, even as early as age four or six. Another resource is thesextalk.com where you can find more age-appropriate material.
Train a child up in the way he should go, even when he grows older, he will not abandon it. – Proverbs 22:6. Through the wisdom of Solomon, we are instructed to start the training early. In one’s walk as a young Christian, spiritual disciplines such as time in prayer, Scripture and worship, convict a man to act differently as he matures in the faith. Responsibility as a Christian requires the establishment of boundaries in order to navigate through the tendencies, habits and relationships that were part of life prior to accepting Jesus the Christ as Savior. The same is true of a child. Basic disciplines such as picking up toys or keeping a room tidy, all the way to respect for the authority dad and mom represent, help a child establish boundaries as they mature. Certainly, rules need to be clearly articulated as practical for each child. For a young child, rules may be instituted with screen time, chores around the house and respect for others in the family. Later, rules around an open-door policy in the home, routine family time, limits on cell phone usage and criteria for dating will help provide appropriate boundaries for a teenager. Remember, it is not just the establishment of rules, but the enforcement of the rules and follow through with appropriate discipline that sets the boundaries.
It is true that the hyper-sexualization of the culture propagating across multiple social media platforms has played a role in stirring up confusion around what a healthy relationship looks like. It seems there are no boundaries. The question is, what is being taught and who is doing the teaching? It is in dad and mom’s court to set the standard early for what a healthy relationship looks like in the home and to accept responsibility for establishing appropriate boundaries in a culture trying to take kids elsewhere. The charge is to instill family values and faith that will help kids enjoy relationships with boundaries.
Prayer guide: Father, thank You for Your word and the charge to train our children. I confess that on the teaching front with my kids, I have abdicated everything spiritual to the church and everything sexual to the school. Forgive me. You have armed me as the spiritual leader in the home to train my children up in the way they should go. Abdication is not an option. Help me exemplify healthy relationship daily through marriage and provide appropriate boundaries as the kids develop their own relationships. That is the dad You call me to be and that’s the dad my kids need to see. Amen.
A faithful father provides the foundation and sets appropriate boundaries.