Parenting Beyond Boundaries

Lately, I have had some phrases bopping around in my mind:

“Parenting without limits/boundaries,”

“unlimited freedom,”

“no boundaries” …

I’ve also been meditating on the verse –

“It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery” (Galatians 5:1).

At the same time, I have been asking myself, do I really believe that children should be unbound, free to grow and develop without limitsANY limits? What are the consequences of that? What does it mean to grow in complete, boundless freedom? And does Scripture even support such a notion? What would that even look like?

While exploring these themes, someone posed a question about forcing our children to follow Christ, even if they choose not too. In attempting to unpack this concept of unlimited freedom, I think the answer to this question sets us down the path to discovering what freedom in Christ really means – for ourselves AND our children.

Radical Unschooling

Radical unschoolers seem to have this reputation of being really free-wheeling, anything-goes-to-the-point-of-unparenting folk, and I really don’t think that’s true of anyone, especially the Christian radical unschoolers. Everyone has their “thing” and even the most liberal atheistic RUS will have what they will and will not accept when it comes to their children.

To not have personal standards or requirements of our children is to tip over into the realm of neglect, and I think that folks who have made the active choice to unschool, no matter how wacky their ideas may seem, are far from neglectful or uninterested in their children. They may make decisions that in the end are possibly unwise and at worst irresponsible, but that is not the same as just not caring about your kid – who they are, how they feel, and what they do.

Even in parenting without limits and boundaries, there is still the fact that we are feeding into our children our own thoughts, feelings, experiences, wisdom, and knowledge. We are still under the command to raise up disciples. The difference comes in the manner in which we do that discipling.

Christian Radical Unschooling

To a Christian radical unschooler, our bottom line is that our children, regardless of their age, size, gender, birth order, giftings, issues, etc, are our fellow human beings and should be treated with the exact same dignity, respect, and consideration as any of the other seven billion people on this planet. The only difference between our children and the dude down the street is that we have been given special spiritual and physical responsibility for them as their coverings.

So what it really boils down to is: “How do you disciple your neighbors – when you are directly responsible for them and they live in your home?”

Different people have different ideas about what constitutes discipling: from a strict, methodical, punitive discipline approach, all the way to just “hoping they’ll make the right decision” without ever once giving any example or instruction. For ME, I look to Christ and His apostles as my example for discipling others, including my children. Jesus led by example, and asked folks to follow Him, but did not coerce or browbeat anyone into making that choice.

My children follow me. They mimic me. They mirror every word I say and attitude I exhibit. They go where I go and breathe in the spiritual air I breathe out. *IF* I am doing a good job in following and mirroring Christ, then it eventually will come to a point where their faith must be their own, and their OWN hearts must be either for or against God. They will no longer be mirroring, but walking on their own.

The Freedom to Choose

One day, they will make that choice for themselves, whether to walk the way Jesus walks, or to walk the path that leads to destruction. I believe that God is not interested in righteous pagans. It is not my desire to have children who “look good on paper” but are really just whitewashed tombs. So I would much rather have raised a child who can say, “I don’t believe,” and have the intellectual honesty to tell me as much, than one who professes faith but is a complete hypocrite inside.

Setting limits and boundaries about what is acceptable behavior doesn’t teach the heart and mind, nor does it form character. Those things are “inherited” through following another’s example and making it one’s own. By demanding certain rules be followed, we miss the opportunity to allow our children to naturally grow from mimicry, to making choices for themselves.

When we attempt to exert our will over another to create a limit or boundary to their behavior, whether our child, or someone else, we are doing something that God Himself does not even do.  We are bound by natural laws – we cannot simply flap our arms and fly away for example – but our behavior is governed by our own internal controls.  God does not MAKE us do anything. He gives us commands, and requests we follow them, but it is up to us to choose whether or not we will do it.  When we find it difficult, He gives us His Spirit and power to accomplish those things.

That is, I believe, the key to parenting without limits. We invite our children to follow us, which they do as a natural extension of being our children. When they are young, and find something harder than others, we assist them to make the choices we feel are best (i.e. taking them to church with us, removing them from dangerous situations, etc). As they mature, and no longer need our assistance, they begin to own their behavior for themselves; forming their own relationship with Christ.

In the end, we only have control over the behavior of ONE person on this planet – our own. Everyone else, we are merely coaxing along to follow our example. We should work to make it a good one, because our children are apt pupils. They WILL learn what we teach them – whether we realize we included the lesson or not.

~ Dawn

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