Boundaries & Authority revisited…

A dear friend thought this should be a blog post, so here we go!

I often get questions on our Yahoo! Group about this subject. It is hard when children are small to think much about disciplining beyond the first few years, but we have to be prepared and also lay the groundwork for the future. Having boundaries isn’t mean and holding authority doesn’t make you a spanker… there is a middle ground! I promise!

In the question to the group, the original poster asked how boundaries and holding authority helped a child form a love of community and beyond.  We were also discussing the words consequence and punishment.


I rarely use the word punishment with my children because with very rare exception, the consequence always fits the situation. i.e., not finishing school work timely will mean we will not have time at the park/friend’s house, etc. so one directly affects the other. Even when they are small, keeping the boundary firm with that mindset of consequences helps you to not use a ton of words. Toddler hitting or hurting someone? Remove toddler. Preschooler won’t clean up toys? Remove toys. I will say that not all children need the toys taken away so most will opt to help clean up.

Sally asked how experiencing authority helps us to see commonality. This is just my take on it. I will preface this with my own experience. I have been asking God to help me understand people more… I need to be more careful what I ask for! I keep getting into very interesting and sometimes stressful learning situations! Case in point, our time in our community. We live in co-housing. I understand that some co-housing is VERY good for those involved. Our co-housing is pretty dysfunctional. Now there are people here that I LOVE. Then there are people here that make my head hurt. The ones that I bristle about the most are those that want a world with no rules and consensus 100% of the time. (Can you imagine your home run on 100% consensus?!) In co-housing there is no authority. People are expected to self govern. You wouldn’t think this would be a problem for adults, but it is. As I have gotten to know these adults and how they govern their lives, children, etc. I have come to see this pattern of “do what you want.” That “do what you want” attitude becomes a value that then gets passed on from one generation to another. It also attracts others with that value. That can make for some very frustrating situations when you are me. LOL.

The “do what you want” value can seem all fine and good IF you have other values like care for others, care for property, truthfulness, etc. otherwise “do what you want” becomes a virus that infects others and breeds frustration among those adults that value some sort of order. Of course living with others is never easy and I am just using our experience as an example, I use it as a way to think about our children in 20 years. 30 years. 50 years. Do we want them to value “do what you want?” or do we want them to care about others? To help them value others, we have to model what we want to see and we have to correct them when they stray. You broke Johnny’s toy? Oh Johnny must be so sad. I know you would be sad if he broke your toy. You will need to do some extra work to pay Mommy back for replacing the toy you broke. Now of course we are age appropriate with this,a 3yr might help you fold towels while a 6yo might sweep the floors and a 12yo should seek harder chores or working for someone else.

I think it is easy to look at the word authority and think it is all about spanking, yelling, etc. that couldn’t be farther from the truth. It is about loving, caring and preparing these children for the world. It is about helping them to understand your values and teaching them. It is about taking a look at our time with them as a stewardship.

Just my thoughts. Blessings.

Melisa Nielsen

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