Limits and neighbors
When it comes to training children, the responsibility for carrying out limits lies with the parent. The character and the understanding of the parent are much more trustworthy than the understanding of the child.
The following experience of one parent illustrates the fact that your limits may not be appreciated by your children and seemingly are not always appreciated by the neighbors.
This parent felt that her child should not cross the busy highway on his bicycle. The other parents in the neighborhood said to their children, “If the rest of the mothers say their children can do it, you can do it.” The gang would go to this woman’s house and plead, but she would say, “No! you can’t do it.” Her child was distraught. “Everybody else’s mother says we can go. You always keep us from going” — as much as to say, “What kind of a mother are you?”
After this happened a few times, the children went once again with the same request. All the other mothers said they could go. Finally, the harassed mother yielded to the pressure and let them go. Suddenly she was hailed as a wonderful mother because the children could have their way. But they had hardly gotten started when the telephone rang. One of the neighbors had called, saying, “Did you tell the children they could cross the street?” “Why, yes.” The neighbor replied, “We were depending on you not to let your child go.”
To have a happy home you may hold standards or values that will seem odd to the neighbors; or your neighbors may silently respect you. In either case, you had better do what is right before God, not what is right in your child’s eyes, or perhaps in the eyes of the mother next door. And if the mother next door doesn’t like this, you still must be pleasant to her from your heart. This requires complete consecration and yieldedness to God.
Limits outside the home
It is important for small children to have supervised contacts outside the home. This is important because limits outside the home are different from those within the home. Adults not in the family will react differently also. A child’s first attempts to approach other children or his reactions to being approached by other children are usually similar to those at home. If he is accustomed to taking what he wants, asking for what he wants, or looking longingly at what he wants, he will do so outside the home. However, the response to his approach by other children or adults may be different from what he is accustomed to at home. His approach, successful at home, may be unsuccessful outside the home.
To illustrate, a four-year-old girl, the only child in the family, and the pride and joy of her parents, went to nursery school. She had learned her manners well. Whenever she wanted something, she would say, “Please, may I have it?” Her parents would then grant her most of her requests. At school she walked up to a little girl nearby and said, “Please, may I have that doll?” “No,” was the answer. The four-year-old returned to her mother with a puzzled look on her face and explained, “I said please, and she won’t give it to me.” The mother, too, looked puzzled. The teacher told the mother and child that what might be a successful approach in the home would not necessarily work outside the home. The other child had rights also. It is important that a young child should have such contacts at her own age level outside the home, so that she can learn the facts of life four-year-old style.