Boundaries vs. Individuality: Is There a Conflict?

“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

Boundaries vs. IndividualityShe was frustrated, it was written all over face. She wasn’t asking for the moon, merely an opportunity to make her own decision. My daughter had thought this through, felt she was able to accomplish the task, and only wanted the freedom to move forward. It was time to ask myself an important question: Was she crossing a boundary here or just expressing her individuality?

It seems obvious, before we can determine whether our children have actually stepped out-of-bounds, we need to determine exactly what those boundaries are. Some of our boundaries might include:

  • You shall have no other gods before Me (the Lord).
  • You shall not make idols.
  • You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain.
  • Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.
  • Honor your father and your mother.
  • You shall not murder.
  • You shall not commit adultery.
  • You shall not steal.
  • You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
  • You shall not covet.

While this list could go on, by now it should be pretty obvious where we’re going with this. We are to follow God’s commands, live righteously, and love our fellow-man.

“He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” 

– Micah 6:8

What about those choices we make for our household, the ones that aren’t ‘officially’ spoken of in the Bible; things like tattoos, staying out late with friends, dating, and more? Do these fall under the heading of boundaries or individuality? In response, I would ask my child to look at commandment (boundary) number five above: Honor your father and mother.

As parents, we aren’t making decisions willy-nilly; we’ve made them through careful consideration and hours of prayer. Our children are commanded – and expected – to obey these boundaries, understanding our choices are made with their best interest at heart. Each family needs to be on their knees in prayer, asking the Lord to give their family wisdom in making these choices.

What about things that aren’t technically forbidden, however for any number of reasons, should be considered carefully? As Paul noted in 1 Cor. 10:23:

“All things are lawful, but not all things are helpful. All things are lawful, but not all things build up.”

In a nutshell, Paul was writing this to the Corinthians to advise them not to use their liberty in a way which might stumble new believers. There might be things which are not necessarily wrong, but would give a bad witness. Where do we draw the line? Unfortunately, there is no black and white – one size fits all – answer. This is where wisdom comes into play. We need to be encouraging our children to seek the Lord in all things and prayerfully allow us to advise them in such choices.

Does this mean our children are never free to express themselves and make individual decisions? Of course not! There are many areas in which our children have liberty. As parents, our main concern is the training of the heart and discipleship. When our children wish to express themselves in various ways, this is a perfect opportunity to lead through questions. We ask them to consider what God wants of them, whether He is in this decision, and if He is glorified through their actions. We pray together, and allow God to lead.

What we ought to be asking ourselves is this: Where is my child’s heart? Is this an act of rebellion or just a fun idea that’s been rattling around in their brain, waiting for an opportunity to be acted upon? If my baby’s heart is right with God, and they’ve sought the Lord in their decision, what is the harm in letting them try something new? There is no danger to their soul; no physical harm involved. My child is merely asking to try something and venture into the unknown.

What about all those nay-sayers who might think something’s just a little off in your household, especially when they see the purple hair your child is sporting this week? Well, does their judgement say more about your child or about themselves? Remember the old saying, “Never judge a book by it’s cover.” My child’s hair may be purple, but the soul underneath would die doing the work of God, and, after all, that’s what it’s all about.

Time to Chime In! : How do your children express their individuality?

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