As a parent, setting boundaries for your children can be one of the most challenging jobs. The minor limit of not sticking their finger in an outlet is challenged when they are little, let alone the standard warning of being careful when crossing a street. Still, keeping healthy boundaries with your adult children is even more challenging. Boundaries are blurred, and parents often don’t know how to provide those boundaries or even define acceptable and healthy ones.
There are two basic methods of boundaries with your adult children. There are healthy boundaries you hope your children will embrace in their lives, and then there are boundaries for the parents of not overstepping in your desire for them to live Godly lives. Parenting boundaries aren’t only for younger children. The job of parenting evolves like the boundaries you have for your kids as they get older. However, the importance of healthy boundaries is just as significant as your adult children don’t have healthy limitations in their lives.
When your kids are younger, it would be negligent not to have boundaries for them. Still, as they grow older, those boundaries aren’t enforced anymore but are offered in the perspective of a healthy relationship. We’re all familiar with helicopter moms, who limit their children’s freedom and overstep their roles as moms. Maybe there are healthy boundaries that parents can have that if they didn’t have in place, their adult children would feel pain.
The Bible talks about this area of parenting adult children. God holds them accountable if parents don’t shield their children and warn them of the dangers of sin. Still, there’s a difference between warning your adult children and making them follow your will. The Bible gives several examples of parents who didn’t protect their adult children with boundaries, and the children suffered. Not only do healthy boundaries keep people hemmed in, but they keep the dangers out.
Failure to restrict.
Eli, the priest’s sons, Hophni and Phinehas, were priests who executed evil acts. What were those evil acts? Their sins were corruption and greed. In 1 Samuel 3:13, we read about Eli’s judgment for not doing a better job of watching his sons. The verse reads, “For I told him that I would judge his family forever because of the sin he knew about; his sons blasphemed God, and he failed to restrain them.”
Eli knew his adult sons were doing wrong and didn’t stop them, but what does restraining look like for your adult children? For Eli, his sons worked as priests under him, which gives context for accountability. Working together as a family can bring challenges and demands the parent to be conscientious when providing expectations and communicating them.
Restricting your adult kids isn’t the same as when they were little, which is obvious. They’re likely living in their own space, so setting boundaries is a concept they must choose to accept. Still, putting down the foundation for those boundaries starts when they’re young. When you show that you have their best interests at heart and are dependable and when you continue to be an inspiration in their lives without overstepping, your children will desire to have you speak into their lives and may ask for advice. This space is the best to give healthy boundaries as your children ask for them.
If you’re not there for your children as young adults when they need assistance, then they’ll not likely ask for help in creating healthy boundaries in their lives, which requires flexibility and sacrifice. It may mean they need help with moving or need to talk late at night. Still, there’s a difference between enablement and being present in their lives.
When your kids step outside of healthy boundaries, think of the example of Eli and remember that you should be faithful to speak into your children’s lives, but you can’t make them follow your advice, which is hard for parents to take. You have to be faithful to give guidance when your children are disobedient to God or in danger, but you must keep your love on when they decide to continue in their behavior. Unconditional love unlocks the door to assist them in establishing healthy boundaries.
Failure to correct.
Aaron’s sons, Abihu and Nadab, also perished due to disobedience and disrespect to God, as described in Leviticus 10:1-2. You make mistakes, and your children will too. When you live a life that’s not hypocritical and humble yourselves when making mistakes, you foster a family culture that brings the possibility for your adult children to follow suit. Correcting your adult children’s sins are different than correcting beliefs. Sometimes, the boundaries you set for yourself won’t work for your adult children. Healthy boundaries aren’t personal but biblical.
Failure to parent.
Finally, there’s King David and his son Adonijah. In 1 Kings 1:6, we read, “David did not displease his son by asking him, ‘Why do you do thus and so?’” Ultimately, King Solomon had Adonijah put to death for his rebellion. It’s natural for parents to want to be liked by their kids. You birthed, raised, and love them dearly. Still, you add to their suffering if you’re unwilling to speak the truth to them when they stray.
While you may consider your adult child a friend, you must care enough to tell them the truth lovingly. You form healthy boundaries when you respect your children’s limits, even if they differ from yours. Boundaries are maintained when you don’t use toxic methods to get your way. Healthy boundaries are the basis of prosperous relationships and are possible with Christ.
As you pursue creating healthy boundaries with your adult children, try asking questions to understand instead of telling them your opinion. This tactic is one way to get them to ponder the limits they have in their lives. One of the main goals as parents is to get your children to make their own decisions. You affect their ability to think for themselves and set limits in their lives that please God when you give them a biblical worldview.