You are all around me on every side; You protect me with your power. Psalm 139:5 (GNT)
Several weeks ago I arrived home from work and my wife told me about an experience she had that reminded us both of the importance of Limits. The day had been a long one, as many stay at home mom’s experience. She decided to take the boys to a favorite park that had a replica Noah’s Ark included in its play area. The boys love this park because they like to pretend the Ark is a pirate ship. What can be more fun than a pirate ship? She looked forward to the boys playing well together and running off some energy.
As the boys imagined firing cannons, and battling rival pirates they encountered, to their surprise, a real life problem. There was a boy at the park, who my wife guessed was in about 4th grade, that was sticking his tongue out and spitting at our two year old. She let it go at first, as it didn’t seem to be bothering the boys so much. The longer they were at the park however the worse it got. She was not pleased, as we have no desire for our mimicking two year old to pick up a new unwanted behavior. So, as things got even worse and in a bit of frustration, she looked at the boy and said, “Your behavior is totally unacceptable for a boy of your age, and we are leaving because we do not want to be spit on.” The boy said, “oh, I am sorry” and immediately stopped the behavior. Not only did he stop the behavior, but he would not leave her side. For the next half hour the boy sat next to her talking all about his family, friends, and experiences at school. She would get up to move across the playground and he would follow, she would walk over to talk to our boys and he would follow, he had become attached to her.
As my wife told me this story the thought that immediately came to mind was SAFETY. It appeared to me that my wife had proven herself to be the safest person in this boys’ life at that moment. I guessed that in his experience anyone who is willing to set firm limits is a person who can be trusted.
Limits are so important in helping a child experience safety. When parents set firm and consistent limits, children experience them as predictable, reliable and trustworthy. I am thankful for the reminder that even though my kids push against and regularly “forget” the established limits I must continue to enforce them. Each time I enforce a limit in a loving way I am proving myself to be reliable, trustworthy, and most importantly safe.
I am also reminded of how often I push against and “forget” the limits set forth by our Heavenly Father. I am thankful for His predictability and the knowledge that He can forever be trusted. I only hope that the limits that I set may point my boys to the Heavenly Father. The one who is all around and on every side protecting them with His power.