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Ending Family Chaos – Boundaries

00008410.JPGLast week I wrote about the first step in developing a Belief System for Discipline for your home — to identify your basic beliefs. The next important step to avoid family chaos is to evaluate your personal Boundaries and how they relate to your beliefs. Boundaries define you. They are the fence posts placed around your behavior, or the delineation of how your beliefs are to be lived out . They are the “I will” and “I will not” statements that are the basis of your daily living and interaction with others. When they are defined, they help everyone in the family take responsibility for their own behavior, make their own choices, and know if they are headed into dangerous territory.

Let me give you some examples of how boundaries support your beliefs…

If an important cornerstone of your Belief System is honesty, then an umbrella family boundary in that regard would be: We will be honest – and expect everyone in our family to be honest. For example, consider something gained dishonestly. What does your family do when a cashier returns too much change? Do you make it right, or do you keep the change? Or, how about when something of value is found in a parking lot? Do you keep it, or take it to the lost and found department? If you believe in honesty, your boundary is to seek to live honestly at all times- it is a clear line that is not to be crossed, even by keeping a lost or dishonestly gained item. It also means you will not accept dishonesty from others in your relationships.

Another good example of a boundary that supports the same belief in honesty might be: I will seek to honestly admit my mistakes and make things right whenever possible. That means, for example, that if I ding another’s car in a parking lot, I’ll leave my name and phone number if the other driven cannot be found.

Boundaries ensure each family member takes responsibility for themselves and their own actions.

A second example might be if you believe that respect for one another has merit, then your boundary will include showing respect to those you live with, and teaching family members to respect those outside the family as well. Being respectful means: not taking things without asking, not talking badly about another, not leaving a mess, not calling names or mouthing off. On the positive side, being respectful means: celebrating one another’s successes, helping each other out when it’s needed, asking permission before using something that is not yours, or standing up for other family members. You fill in what you consider to be respectful and disrespectful practices.

Boundaries help us set thoughtful limits to our own behavior, ensuring right behavior in the heat of the moment.

And, as a final example, perhaps you believe that dinner time is an important time for building family togetherness. A boundary in that regard could be: I will plan and implement dinner for the family every evening, and expect them to be there whenever possible. Thinking a bit ahead to creating a rule that goes along with your belief and boundary: “No one is to make conflicting plans for dinner time, nor accept phone calls or visits from friends during that time.”

Boundaries are about every member of the family, not just about you or your teen. They help us learn when to lovingly say “yes” or “no” when someone or something wants our time, our energy, our money, or our attention.

Sometimes boundaries need to be adjusted as your family grows up, in order to be more age-appropriate, or honed to address a specific problem. Boundaries are not rules, which will be discussed next week. Boundaries apply more to the person, and how you will function within your relationships. They help you take responsibility for your choices, and empower you to set limits with others.

NEXT: We’ll learn about Rules…the management tools that help us accomplish living according our beliefs.

In two weeks we’ll also discuss consequences for the times when the rules are broken. You’ll see that laying down rules without your teenager understanding the basic beliefs behind the rules, nor defining specific boundaries and consequences, is simply asking for trouble and growing frustration. You’ll also see that allowing your teen to face the natural consequences for breaking the rules is the number one way to help them learn how to honor your beliefs.

The four-step plan to end family chaos in your home:

Reveal your BELIEFS >> define BOUNDARIES >> establish your RULES>> enforce the CONSEQUENCES

ASSIGNMENT: Your assignment this week is to take your top ten or fifteen beliefs and identify boundaries for each. Think about and write down different real-life situations and how far things can go before your family boundaries will be violated.

Mark Gregston is a bestselling author and the Founder of Heartlight Ministries ( a therapeutic boarding school for troubled teens.


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Author: Mark Gregston

Mark Gregston began working with teens more than 40 years ago as a youth minister and Young Life director. He has authored nearly two dozen books, has written hundreds of articles, and is host of the nationally-acclaimed Parenting Today’s Teens podcast and radio broadcast.