Setting Boundaries

by Jeffrey W. Hamilton

Text: Ephesians 6:1-4


I.         We live in a country that is founded on the ideas of freedom and liberty

            A.        Yet we don’t live in society without any restraints. We have laws, rules, regulations, expectations

            B.        It is the very laws that we have which gives us our freedom

                        1.         How? One of my memories of the Philippines is the intersections. They were places of mass chaos as everyone tried to cross at the same time. There were no rules governing the behavior of traffic. In a small town, it would take a half-hour to an hour to cross just because of the intersections.

                        2.         Compare that to our large town where we can whiz to most any place in less than a half-hour. How is it that traffic flows so smoothly most of the time? It is because of the rules.

            C.        Yet, when it comes to raising children we don’t take notice. We see the lack of restraint as a benefit, never guessing at the harm it can do.

II.        Examples from the Old Testament

            A.        Eli

                        1.         Eli’s sons were a disaster - I Samuel 2:12

                                    a.         They took what they wanted from the offerings to God

                                    b.         If someone refused, they threatened to take what they wanted by force

                        2.         Even when warned Eli did not rebuke his sons - I Samuel 3:13

                        3.         Oh, he talked with them - I Samuel 2:22-25

                        4.         You see Eli never followed up on his scolding.

                                    a.         His sons behavior required punishment by death according the Law

                                    b.         Their refusal to listen alone carried the death penalty - Deuteronomy 21:18-21

                                    c.         Yet Eli, as the high priest, continued to allow his sons to serve as priests.

            B.        David

                        1.         David had two sons who tried to overthrow his kingship.

                        2.         In discussing the second attempt we learn how David raised his sons - I Kings 1:6

            C.        A modern example - read article from Boston Globe, December 13, 2001

            D.        A child who gets his own way brings shame - Proverbs 29:15

III.       Everyone needs rules

            A.        Ephesians 6:4 - grow your children in the discipline and admonition of the Lord

                        1.         Admonition - advice, teaching, rebukes

                        2.         Discipline - training by encouragement and punishment

                                    a.         Example: Hebrews 12:5-12

            B.        Too often parents give in to the demands of a child because it is easier than having a row on their hands.

                        1.         Perhaps they feel guilty about their child’s life and hope to buy their favor.

                        2.         Love for a child means seeing to their proper training. It doesn’t mean being loved by the child because at times they will not like the training - Hebrews 12:11

                                    a.         How many adults like being tight on cash? But it forces us to learn to manage our money.

                                    b.         Learning to grow up is understanding you don’t get your way all the time

IV.      Proper discipline

            A.        Too often parents mistake yelling for discipline

                        1.         From John Rosemond, “On a number of occasions over the past year or so, I’ve had occasion to watch some of these pretenders [of strict discipline], be “strict” with their children. Here’s a composite example of how they corrupt the term:

                                    “Rambo! Give me that!”

                                    (Rambo, age 7, acts oblivious)

                                    “Rambo! Did you hear me !?!”



                                    “I’m just playing with it.”

                                    “I don’t care. Give it to me. It’s not a toy.”

                                    “But Mom!”

                                    “No! Give it to me.”

                                    “Just let me play with it for a while. Please.”

                                    “No! Now!” (Mom holds her hand out, expectantly.)

                                    (Rambo jerks the “toy” back, away from Mom’s hand.”

                                    “Rambo! Give me that! Now!”

I think you get the picture. This game of “Here We Go ‘Round the Mulberry Bush” may go on for two or three minutes before Mom wins.

                        2.         What should have happened?

                                    a.         Mom should have asked to the object and as soon as he acted oblivious, she should have lowered the boon.

                                                (1)       Off to the room for a hour or two, or a spanking

                                                (2)       Plus a loss of some privilege.

                                    b.         The child may scream, yell, or whatever, but Mom doesn’t need to justify her judgment. A wrong was done. A punishment came as the result. - Proverbs 23:13-14 (rod here means a switch)

                                    c.         She shouldn’t feel guilty, nor does she need to get angry. It is a fact that children will misbehave and punishments are needed to correct the misbehavior

            B.        Too often parents are strict part of the time

                        1.         Children will push the limits.

                                    a.         Some learn they will not always be punished and they gamble that perhaps this time they will get away with something

                                    b.         Like a gambler, despite the fact that they lose far more than they win, they win just often enough to believe they are beating the system.

                                    c.         From John Rosemond, “An undisciplined child is a compulsive gambler as well. The parents of one such 7-year-old girl – I’ll call her JoJo – recently asked me how to ‘cure’ their daughter’s chronic disobedience. In response to an instruction of any sort, JoJo would pretend not to have heard or simply refuse to comply! Typically, she’d stomp her foot and yell something defiant, as in “No! I’m busy right now!” JoJo’s parents told me they “always” made her sit in the “thinking chair” for five minutes when these incidents occurred. “Always?” I asked incredulous. “Well,” her mother said, “all right, not always, but most of the time. I mean, we try to be consistent, but you know, it’s hard.”

                                    d.         Even if little JoJo was sent to the chair 7 out of 10 times, even though she is not beating the system in reality, she gets just enough rewards to think it is worth the gamble.

                                    e.         Where a gambler eventually runs out of money, a child never runs out of mischief - Proverbs 22:15

            C.        Then there is the problem of inconsistency between words and action

                        1.         A parent who says if you do that again, I’m going to ...

                        2.         The child does it again, and all he gets is another warning.

                        3.         A parent must mean what he says. He must always be truthful - Matthew 5:37

                        4.         By the same token, a parent must never threaten what cannot be carried out. “If you do that again, I’ll knock your head off.”

                                    a.         Hopefully it is just an expression, but even if your child knows you don’t really mean it, think what you are saying!

                                    b.         You threaten great harm, but it can be taken as a joke?

                                    c.         You tell lies, but that is all right?

            D.        When you give a rule, decide in advance what the consequence should be.

                        1.         Trying to make up something on the fly rarely works well.

                        2.         Arbitrary punishments can seem just as inconsistent as arbitrary application.

V.        As a child matures, the restrictions must be released

            A.        Not totally removed. But they need to be appropriate for the age of the child.

                        1.         A one-year-old shouldn’t climb on a chair, but I often use a chair to reach a light bulb.

                        2.         The restrictions might change. I might allow a young boy to spend the night at a friend’s house – even if she happens to be girl, but I would refuse to let a teenager do the same thing.

            B.        A child who shows responsibility can be given more freedom, but they should know that the freedom comes with responsibility.

                        1.         A child needs to learn how to make choices, so allow choices that will not make a difference at the moment.

                        2.         Make them stick to the choice to ensure a well-considered decision.

                        3.         Allow them to make some bad choices that does not cause great or lasting harm.

VI.      If you have started off wrong, the best time to correct your direction is now.

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