Is It Time to Fence Your Kids In?

Joey and Carla Link

January 25, 2023

When watching home fix-it shows, when someone with a pet is looking for a new home, they always say they need the back yard fenced in. Why? Because they don’t trust their pet to stay in the yard without one. The fence provides boundaries so the dog knows where he is free to run and play.

Your kids need fences too, which is why most people looking for homes with kids say they need a back yard with a fence too. They don’t trust their kids to run and play and stay in the yard without them. Another word for fences is boundaries. Your kids need boundaries to help keep them fenced in so they will know what the right or wrong thing to do is.

When your kids demonstrate inappropriate behaviors that are not fenced in by boundaries they make a mess, physically or emotionally which are not easy for parents to clean up. It could be they aren’t old enough to handle the freedom no boundaries gives them. Perhaps they aren’t mature enough either. In these cases, their misbehavior is childish, meaning your kids don’t have what it takes to make a right decision about what to or not to do. 

Let’s say you put boundaries in place and they don’t keep their behaviors within those boundaries. This is foolish behavior, meaning they have chosen to do what they know they aren’t supposed to do.

Until your kids are old enough or mature enough to keep themselves within the fences that help them stay on track, parents have to do it for them. It takes thinking and time. Your home will be a lot more peaceful when your fences are up and your kids’ inappropriate or immature behaviors are corralled. Within these fences, they have everything they need and lots of things they want, so they can learn to live with contentment. 

Are your kids’ content? Do they misbehave in the same way over and over again? Perhaps it is time to re-evaluate what boundaries you have in place for each of your kids and whether or not it is time to adjust them. In the parenting class Growing Kids God’s Way, we learned a catch-all word for boundaries and it is the funnel. We use funnels in the kitchen when we have to pour liquid into something smaller. The funnel keeps the liquid where it is supposed to be and guides it to where it is supposed to go.

How does the funnel work?

·       Behaviors your child is not old enough to manage on his own go into the funnel

·       Behaviors your child can manage on his own but is not characterized by doing so go in the funnel

·       When a child participates in situations where these behaviors are used, someone in authority MUST be watching or trouble will happen

Josh (5 yr.) and Nate (3 yr.) are playing. Nate grabs Josh’s toy out of his hands and Josh hits him. Nate screams, Mom comes running and Josh is told to stop hitting his brother, he needs to learn to share and to give the toy to Nate. Josh throws the toy on the floor and runs off crying. Dad walks in the door and wonders if he will ever come home to a peaceful house again.

Since this is not an infrequent occurrence, boundaries are needed. When mom is busy preparing meals or cleaning the house and can’t keep her eyes on the boys every minute, she needs to have them separated for play time. This is where having a routine works wonders. It really is a mom’s best friend because in the moment, it does her thinking for her. She can put Nate at the table with a coloring book or playdough and Josh can play with his blocks. Mom sets the time for 10 minutes. When the timer goes off, she checks on Nate to see how he is doing. If he wants to keep playing with what she gave him, she sets the timer and checks again when it goes off. This is the way to keep track of young kids with short attention spans. When the boys have time to play together, Mom knows she has to be where they are playing so she can intervene before things get out of hand.

The best way to keep your child’s behaviors inside the funnel is to have them ask for permission for what they want. I was surprised when I was in a home and the 8 yr. old child was asking for permission to put water from the front of the refrigerator in his thermos since I was pretty sure he could do it without help. His mom asked him if was going to be careful or did she need to come watch him do it. I got it then, he was characterized by spilling the water all over the floor, so his parents put the boundary in place that he had to ask for permission to get water. Asking for permission gives Mom the heads up that she needs to pay attention to what this child is getting ready to do.

Do you put boundaries around your kids’ behaviors when they are not old enough or mature enough to do it themselves? Can you think of one behavior for each of your children that need a boundary around it to keep it on track, or something they continuously misuse and need to start asking permission to use or do?

“Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own eyes.”

Proverbs 26:5