Do Kids Really Want Boundaries

You have discussed the need for establishing boundaries within the home. Do children really want limits set on their behavior?

Most certainly! After working with and around children all these years, I could not be more convinced of this fact. They derive security from knowing where the boundaries are and who's available to enforce them. Perhaps an illustration will make this more clear. Imagine yourself driving a car over the Royal Gorge in Colorado. The bridge is suspended hundreds of feet above the canyon floor, and as a first-time traveler you are uneasy as you cross. (I knew one little fellow who was so awed by the view from the bridge that he said, "Wow, Daddy. If you fell off here it'd kill you constantly!") Now suppose there were no guardrails on the side of the bridge; where would you steer the car? Right down the middle of the road! Even though you wouldn't plan to hit the protective rails along the side, you'd feel more secure just knowing they were there.

The analogy to children has been demonstrated empirically. During the early days of the progressive education movement, one enthusiastic theorist removed the chain-link fence surrounding the nursery school yard. He thought children would feel more freedom of movement without the visible barrier surrounding them. When the fence was removed, however, the boys and girls huddled near the center of the playground. Not only did they not wander away, they didn't even venture to the edge of the grounds.

There is security in defined limits. When the home atmosphere is as it should be, children live in utter safety. They never get in trouble unless they deliberately ask for it, and as long as they stay within the limits, there is happiness and freedom and acceptance. If this is what is meant by "democracy" in the home, then I favor it. If it means the absence of boundaries, or that children set their own boundaries in defiance of parents, then I'm unalterably opposed to it.

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