A child doesn’t have to be burned to learn that fire is dangerous. It’s not necessary to be hit by a car to learn that a street is not a safe place to play. Children need consistent reinforcement of truth to learn it. For most children, this will be enough to shape their thinking and influence their actions. While they are very young, we take them by the hand moving them out of danger while reinforcing with our words, “It’s hot, don’t touch it or it will burn you. It is dangerous to go into the street. That is a no! This is a yes.” Our actions and words influence their understanding of danger.
The dangers of relationships take on a whole new level in comparison to fire and busy streets. In relationships dangers are not so easily detected. While doing life with sinful people, parents and teachers really have no idea who they can trust. Too many times a spouse, sibling, extended family member, teacher, law enforcer, even a pastor, will become the perpetrator. And sometimes even our child becomes the one doing the offending.
The best defense against an unhealthy relationship is an understanding of good boundaries emotionally, physically, financially, mentally, and spiritually. If they understand these boundaries they can apply them with any person in their lives including their own parents. A good understanding of boundaries in a healthy relationship will not only protect them from becoming a victim but will also protect them from becoming a perpetrator of violence.
Humans lean toward wanting sameness. Feeling different can be very uncomfortable and at times even devastating. We go to great lengths and give up much for the feeling of acceptance. When it comes to healthy relationships, we need to learn how to embrace our differences, celebrate them, and understand them to the best of our ability. Our children need to know how to set boundaries in all their various relationships. Them must learn how to balance their need to feel accepted while maintaining the joy of being different in some areas. Proverbs 11:1 says, “The Lord abhors dishonest scales, but an accurate weight is his delight.” Cheating and deception are not just done in accounting, or financial interactions. Balance is a necessary part of life. Balancing our uniqueness with the sameness that we have with others is quite a balancing act to learn. Nevertheless, understanding this balance is the key to healthy relationships.
Too many times we force our children to change their behavior because it is easier, convenient, less stressful, or culturally acceptable, not because we want them to do right, be safe or become the unique person God made them to be. This kind of shepherding causes a herd mentality and sets them up to be victims of the perpetrator who will manipulate them through a sense of shame, guilt, fear, or need of acceptance. Teaching them to be strong in their opinions, their core beliefs, their personal standards is necessary to give them the courage to stand up against the goliaths in their lives who will come in the disguise of a demanding parent, overbearing sibling, sexually challenged friend, or that unstable pastor, teacher, or coach.
As you read this, think about the children you have an opportunity to influence. Are you willing to go the extra mile? Will you take the time, spend the resources to influence them to understand their own boundaries and how to get help if they are crossed? Will you help them understand how to guard against crossing the boundaries of others? If you want the next generation to have healthy relationships in their marriage, with their children, at work, at church, and in their community then now is the time to teach them how to become the person God intended them to be. Teach them how to set and guard their boundaries. Then teach them the importance of not crossing others’ boundaries.