Balancing Bonding and Boundaries as a Parent

To raise happy, healthy children, remember this: Rules alone won’t work.

Rules only control a child’s outer behavior. To develop a child’s inner character, you have to go deeper. Until children develop an inner motivation to do the right thing, they’ll keep sticking their toe over the line.

Like a friend of mine’s five-year-old daughter. They were playing together in the front yard. “Stay in the grass,” he told her. “Don’t step onto the sidewalk or the driveway.” The little girl looked her dad right in the eye, playfully danced to the edge of the grass … and stuck her big toe across the forbidden line.

Rules are an important parenting tool, but they are easy to overdo. Beyond a certain point, more won’t improve your child’s behavior or your relationship with them.

Instead, connect with your child at a heart level. Speak to their soul. Teach them transcendent values that fill life with meaning and purpose.


Understand that most of what we teach our children about God, family, and work does not come from lectures and rules. It comes from laughing over pizza, making snow angels, eating popcorn and watching movies on the couch, or lying with them at bedtime and listening as they talk about whatever is on their hearts and minds.

We can teach what we know, but we can only reproduce who we are.

As most parents can attest, striking a healthy balance between boundaries and bonding isn’t always easy. That’s why we’re offering some practical help and time-tested advice on our Focus on the Family Broadcast “Balancing Bonding and Boundaries as a Parent” with author Jonathan McKee. Listen on your local radio station, online, on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, or on our free phone app.

Jonathan has over 20 years of youth ministry experience and speaks to parents, leaders, and teens worldwide. He’ll help you become better and wiser as you guide your children toward adulthood.

He’s written a book called If I Had a Parenting Do Over: 7 Vital Changes I’d Make. Let us put this resource into your hands for a gift of any amount. Give us a call at 1-800-A-FAMILY (232-6459). Or visit our website for information.

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Jim Daly with Paul Batura

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