Setting Boundaries to Stop Your Children Getting Out of Control

Cows in a field

If you are a parent you will probably know how frustrating it is when children have gone a bit wild and start picking things off supermarket shelves or other craziness!

There is a technique I often used to prevent this from happening, which is to keep the boundaries tight to start with, until they have proved responsible, and then gradually let them get looser. The Ezzos, who wrote ‘Growing Kids God’s Way’ call it ‘Parenting within the Funnel’.

The idea is that you start at the small end of the funnel and only gradually let it get bigger. Here are some examples:

Going to Church with Toddlers

When I would take our kids to church at crawling age I would hold them before the service, or keep them in the pram with some books and toys. Basically that is because once you let them get down on the floor and crawl they will be very unhappy if you start reigning them in and try to hold them again. But if you hold them from the start then you won’t get those problems.

Visiting the Supermarket

Another place that can be fraught with problems is the supermarket. What I always did when my kids were little was to get a trolley with two seats in and tell them they had to sit in the trolley. I would bring along an apple or carrot (or buy a bag with them and let them eat one of them since the bags aren’t by weight!) for them to chew. That usually would keep them happy for quite a while. Once I got three children I ended up getting the food delivered!

It is the same principle here – if I had gone into the supermarket with them walking, or let them out of the trolley, it would have been a lot harder to control them. Also then when they did eventually misbehave it would be a lot harder to get them back into the trolley cheerfully.

Messy Things

Once we moved into a house that had crayon permanently marked on some of the walls, and it wouldn’t come off without being painted over. I really didn’t want that to happen with our kids if at all possible, so another boundary I set while my kids were little is that they always had to use crayons and pencils at the table, and are only occasionaly allowed pens because they don’t come off!

I have to admit that we have still had a few graffiti-like instances, but thankfully they weren’t too bad, and have really been since there are more pencils throughout the house due to school work.

Why Boundaries Can Be Helpful

So why not just let them be free? Well of course you can if you want! But here are some of the reasons why I choose to use this tactic to help things not get out of hand:

  • Choose your battles wisely – though I want to teach my kids to be obedient, the supermarket and church are not the best environment for this. So I prefer to avoid confrontation in those situations where possible, and do battle at other times when I’m at home and not trying to get my shopping done!
  • To be a good witness – let’s face it, most of us parents can end up losing our patience and raising our voice if we are stressed enough! So in public I prefer to keep the boundaries closer, which means that bad behaviour is less likely in front of others.
  • A peaceful environment – if I have the situation under control, for instance by making sure the kids colour at the table, it is far more likely to keep the peace than if they are running all over the house with crayons, dropping them, leaving them in random places, and drawing on things they shouldn’t!
  • They can learn the Biblical principle of Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much‘ Luke 16:10 (NIV). If they can be trusted within the boundaries you have put them in, then you can gradually loosen up and trust them with more.


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4 Responses

  1. Robin says:

    choosing your battles wisely is one I think of often and use, too! What a great post thanks for sharing!
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  2. Rhoda says:

    Thanks Robin, it is an important one that I think you realise more when you’re a parent than before!

  3. Hello Rhoda, I often have this issue with my little girl who loves to eat chocolate! when we get to the teller, she helps herself to one and make us pay. We had to get her to understand
    * You pay for it!
    * You can’t have it all the time
    * No means No!

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  4. Rhoda says:

    We have a rule where they are not allowed to ask for anything in a shop, though they can tell us they like something. So sometimes one of them will be going, “I like that, I LIKE that!” lol