Boundaries prepare children for wise choices

Monday April 30, 2018 Written by Published in Virtues in Paradise

During our lifetime, we often come to a crossroads and must decide what direction to take.


Big ones and small ones. We may not choose the circumstances of our birth, or the events in the world around us, but it makes all the difference how we choose to respond to what happens. We are, indeed the authors of our own life. Steven Covey said, “Between the stimulus and the response, there is always choice.”

Whether a young child confronted by a boundary for the first time, or an elder facing death, I find it fascinating to observe people making choices. At age three, our granddaughter Tasi decide to break a boundary about putting her toys away every day before she went home. One day, she crawled under a table and refused. 

After one reminder, I said, “Tasi, you know the rule. If you want to play with your toys, you’re responsible for putting them away. Tomorrow, you can come and visit but no toys.”

The next day, she came over, and looking over her shoulder at me, slowly edged her way toward the toy drawer. I just shook my head.

Do you remember why no toys today?” I asked. She nodded. “Not helpful” she said.

“I’m sure you’ll be helpful tomorrow,” I said. The next day she cheerfully put her toys away in record time. The purpose of giving children boundaries is to prepare them to make wise choices throughout life, and to learn that responsibility and freedom go together.    

A couple of years later, we were having a pool party. At snack time, all the children changed into dry clothes. I noticed she was in the house in her swimming togs crying. Her dry undies were missing and she refused to get dressed without them.

I offered her a pareu and tied it on her. She seemed embarrassed to go out to the snack table wearing it and started crying again and whining about her clothes. So I bent down and said, “You could use your Moana courage,” and left her inside. About a minute later, she had made her decision. She was outside, grabbing snacks and laughing with the other children.

When my younger brother John, at 64, learned that he had terminal brain cancer, he went quiet, took the news deep inside and two basic responses emerged: a whole new topic for his humor and a radiant acceptance I had never seen in him before. One day, driving him home from a doctor’s visit, I asked, “John, how are you able to be so peaceful with what’s happening?”

The doctor had just told him he would never drive again, and for this car fanatic, I knew it was a huge loss. He said something I will never forget. “People are always asking me, do I have any hope. It’s not about hope and it’s not about fear. It’s about trust.” He met the end of life with cheerfulness and even joy. The cancer specialist said “I’ve never seen anyone face death with such peace. Why?” John answered, “Well in my Faith, prayer is conversation with God and death is reunion with God.

I’ve always loved change, so to tell you the truth, I can hardly wait.” I believe this way of facing death was a conscious choice on his part.

Every day we get to choose, will I be grateful or resentful? Critical or tolerant? Demanding or courteous? Will I lock myself into loss or find the courage to greet life with open arms? These virtues and more give us all we need to make the very best choices.

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