This generation’s parents are often described as lenient who believe in freedom for their own children. Perhaps this is so because when we were young, most of our parents were so rigid and everything was met with no. This authoritarian parenting somehow gave us wounds. And many of us when we have grown up and became parents decided to be lenient in the hope of developing better relationships with our children.
As a result of this lenient parenting, however, many of the children today encounter challenges, especially in the social realm as they are growing up. Many times, this challenge lies in healthy boundaries. What does this mean?
It means that a child who has not been told “No” in a kind but firm way finds it difficult to understand that she’s going overboard. Lacking this capacity, the child will insist what he wants and tends to throw fits the moment he doesn’t get it. Imagine a child gettting what she wants every time. As she grows up she is rarely, if at all, refused the toy or the sweet she wants because her parents don’t want her to feel hurt. So she’s used to having her way or the highway. The child grows up and becomes a colleague or a partner. How will he behave when he gets refused by his partner for healthy reasons? How will she respond when she get opposition from a colleague? Will she learn to refuse undesirable influences from among her peers?
The child who has not been given clear boundaries and even a refusal from the things that she wants will find it difficult to set clear, healthy boundaries for herself. The Bible had a simple line for it. “Spare the rod and spoil the child.” Many believed that this line refers to a good spanking (the using of rod) for the child to be disciplined. And many from our generation experienced a good beating from our parents.
Personally though, I do not think that “rod” is a symbol for beating. If we are to examine the quality of a rod, it is firm and straight. The rod must be a symbol of a loving authority that a child can look up to. A rod is unbending. This must be the quality that the Bible is talking about. The child needs someone whom he can rely to be firm for him in times when his judgments are yet to be educated.
Does it have to be a “No” all the time? Not necessarily. Being with the children always requires us to have a sense of feeling for them so that we know the right time to say what. As a teacher in the classroom, I always tell the children “No means no. When your classmate says stop, it’s time to stop.” I did not invent this on my own, though. I have been attending teacher trainings and setting healthy boundaries for children is always given emphasis. When words fail, we can always teach through a game, like when I say go, they run and when I say stop, they pause. It’s simple, almost a no-brainer, but it’s very potent in instilling in them this sense for boundaries.
When, as immediate authorities to the children, we are clear and firm with our no and boundaries, we are not only doing it for the sake of not giving in to them. We are doing this for them. So when they see us putting our feet down, they will know how to do it for themselves when the time comes.