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2. Book Review -- Boundaries with Kids


Book Title: Boundaries with Kids

AuthorHenry Cloud, John Townsend

Year of Publication2001



Author’s Web-site

Full Book Available inEnglish, Czech

You should read this book if you…

Want to provide your children with a safe environment to learn right from wrong, danger from safety, good from better and life from death.  The book also helps you teach your children to take responsibility and develop character

“In a nut shell”…

The book explains how to set boundaries with your children and instill the kind of character in your children that will help them lead balanced, productive, and fulfilling adult lives.

Key Ideas…

When you set boundaries for your child, he actually feels more loved and secure, not less.  Part of the difficulty of parenting is tolerating and enduring your child’s hatred of your boundaries. Your child will test your resolve so he can learn about reality. Your job is to withstand the test, including anger, pouting, tantrums, etc.

It is important to teach the lesson of consequences to your child. Don’t get emotional or nag. Empathize with the child, but make sure the behavior costs the child the opportunity to do something that she valued.

Make consequences the natural outflow of the crime. If child is always late for dinner, he may have to miss dinner.  Always follow through on promised consequences.

Save consequences for serious offenses. Should be for behavior that is in danger of becoming a bad character pattern.

Give immediate consequences.

Talk to your child about misbehavior at a time when child is not misbehaving.

Make honesty the norm in your family’s daily life and set strong limits on dishonesty.

You want your child to develop a desire to do the right things and to avoid the wrong ones because of love for others and God.

Help child see that life isn’t about avoiding pain. Life isn’t about avoiding suffering, but about learning to suffer well.

Action Steps…

Identify character qualities that you want your children to have as adults, and help them begin developing those qualities now (when they are young). Example of qualities to develop: loving, responsible, respectful of authority, initiating (the ability to begin things), growing, oriented to Biblical truth, order life around God.

Always combine love with limits.

When you present boundaries to your child:

State the issue in specific terms.

Make your expectations clear.

Write down what will happen when child doesn’t meet your expectations—lose privileges, etc. The punishment should fit the crime. For example, if your child is perpetually late for dinner, he may miss eating it one night. If your daughter doesn’t do her chores around the house, she may lose a privilege the rest of the family gets. If she begins working on a school project at the last minute, she may get a bad grade. Set up positive consequences for success in meeting expectations.


“Honesty begins with parents who model it, require it from their children, and provide them with a safe environment in which to be honest. By and large, all children hide the truth when it threatens them. So parents need to create a context in which a child’s natural tendency to hide can be overcome. This requires a delicate balance between safety and standards.”  Pg 34

“Give freedom, require responsibility, render consequences and be loving throughout.” Pg 65

“Give a person grace (unmerited favor) and truth (structure), and do that over time, and you have the greatest chance of this person growing into a person of good character. Grace includes support, resources, love, compassion, forgiveness, and all of the relational sides of God’s nature. Truth is the structure of life; it tells us how we are supposed to live our lives and how life really works.”  Pg 67-68


If you have a conflict with your child, be kind and loving, but remain strong enough to let them know that their feelings haven’t driven you away. Leave your pride somewhere else.  After the conflict, bond with your child. Let your child know that your relationship is more important than this conflict. Your love will remain after this conflict is past.

The solution for entitlement (thinking you deserve something) is humility.  Your child needs to know that, while he has legitimate needs, he isn’t entitled to anything.

Keep the limit and empathize with how the child is feeling—love and limits.  If you don’t let your own anger, shame or justification get in the way, the limit becomes the adversary, not Mom.  Empathy keeps you out of a power struggle with the child.

How this has changed my parenting…

Part of the challenge of parenting is tolerating and enduring your child’s hatred of your boundaries.  Your child will test your resolve so he can learn about reality.  You must withstand the test, including anger, pouting, tantrums, etc.  I tend to be over-sensitive and take things personally, so this was a good lesson for me to separate my emotions and stick to my boundaries.

When children make bad choices, empathize with their loss.  Ex: that’s sad not getting to play today.  I know.  I feel for you missing the game.  I hate it when I don’t get to do something I want.  I bet you are hungry.  I hate missing a meal too.  It is important to empathize and stick with your boundaries at the same time—this keeps you close to your child in the midst of discipline.

Give rewards for: acquiring new skills and performing exceptionally.  Ok to reward 2-year old for potty training.  Do not give rewards for: doing the age-appropriate requirements (such as living skills) and doing what is expected (such as work).  I thought this was an important point because so often children get rewarded for doing things they should be doing anyway.  This taught me to only reward in certain circumstances.  Otherwise, the child may develop a nature of entitlement.

Don’t give the child the impression that you love her perfect, performing parts more than you do her mediocre, stumbling parts.  I tend to be a perfectionist and hard on myself, and do not want to translate that to parenting!  This point will be useful as my children try things and fail—if I let them know I love them just as much then as when they do something well, they won’t be afraid to try new things.

Follow up on promised consequences.  It is so easy not to follow through when my child looks at me with tear-filled eyes, but I have to remember that it won’t help him if I don’t stick with the original consequences.

 © 2011 The Family Project

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