6 Rules to Win the Parenting Game

Rule #6 Create Healthy Boundaries

Pastor Rachel Billups

Dive right in with me to Proverbs chapter 3. We’ve already explored the first 10 verses of this chapter and today we’re digging into verses 11-12.

“My son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline, and do not resent his rebuke, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, as a father the son he delights in.”

Let’s talk about discipline. Sometimes we equate discipline in the Bible with punishment – like God is going to zap you if you misbehave. But that’s not the kind of God we serve. God is a loving parent gifting us with boundaries and guardrails to help us live purposeful, abundant lives. I get it – most of us don’t like to be told what to do! We want to be our own person. We want to develop that same independence in our children, and we want freedom in all of it. But freedom without boundaries isn’t free. It’s chaos, and chaos has the potential to wreck our lives and our kid’s lives as well. A life devoid of boundaries is no life at all.


It’s super helpful to think about discipline in terms of proactive vs. reactive. Boundaries are an example of proactive discipline.  They’re kind of like bumper pads while bowling. Sure, you might BUMP up against the boundary, but that boundary is going to keep you in your lane hitting pins every single time. You can’t just bowl in someone else’s lane, or you might get hit with someone else’s ball. Boundaries are proactive. Helping you keep in your lane.

Unhealthy punishment is reactive. It’s that moment you lose your stuff on your kid in the car because they will not stop fighting in the back seat, that moment when your emotional outburst of anger sends your kids cowering in the corner. Tempers fly, blood boils, we react, and we are no longer the healthy parent, the healthy adult in the situation. I’ve been there. There’s been a couple of occasions when I’ve had to go to my room and put myself in a time out! The struggle is real. But parents, there is so much freedom when we proactively set healthy boundaries for our kids and the kids within our sphere of influence.

Boundaries are beautiful! But they aren’t merely beautiful for our kiddos. They’re also healthy for us. Parents, this takes me back to our second rule of winning the parenting game: Model Daily. We’ve got to model healthy boundaries for our kids. And get this, it’s not even enough to merely show them, we’ve got to tell them. That’s right,


Talk to your kids openly about how you’re protecting your marriage by taking time to talk with your spouse each day. Tell your kid you make healthy food choices and exercise so you can be with them longer. Let them know how you spend your quiet time with God and why you do it in the first place. Show and tell might look like letting your kid in on your monthly budget. Explain and educate, show and tell. This is a moment to encourage healthy, boundaries behavior. How do I set said boundaries?  I am so glad you asked. We’re gonna



“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” (Jeremiah 29:11 NIV).

God has a future and plan for every single kiddo we know. It’s our job as adults to remind them of that purposeful future. Did you know that teenagers really struggle with long term thinking?  It’s a matter of brain chemistry. Teenagers aren’t designed yet to think of long-term consequences. It’s why it’s so important, parents and adults, for us to help them imagine toward the future.  Play the movie forward.

Setting boundaries for your family is really personal. Have you thought about boundaries when it comes to sleepovers, or family time verses play time? What about parties? The truth is, our kids and students actually want boundaries. They need help navigating challenging decisions. Do they want to be told what to do? Nope. But proactive bumper pads give them the freedom to make decisions within the framework of boundaries. And what’s great is that when your kids know a boundary, they will tell you.

Here’s an action step for you today—take time this week with your spouse or your coparent and begin to talk about healthy boundaries in your home. How many activities will you let each kid participate in, what role does the church play in your family’s lives?  Sit down for 30 minutes and lay out boundaries—maybe it’s a phone contract, boundaries around screen time, or a driving contract. Whatever you do, play that movie forward, set those boundaries ahead of time, and take the long view of their lives together.

And finally, let’s be the parents who


“Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it,” (Proverbs 22:6 NIV).

Raise up that child in the loving environment where they learn to love God and others as themselves. This scripture isn’t a promise, it’s a probability. What the writer of Proverbs is saying is that as parents we have the honor of gifting our kids with the best start, calling our kids into a life of love and true freedom. It’s fascinating that the writer of Proverbs says train up a child in the way they should go, not the way every kid should go, or the way that we went as kids. The writer gives us permission to uniquely parent our very unique kids. So, the pressure is off!  Remember there’s no perfect parent, no perfect strategy, just grace and love.

Friends I’ve thought about this an awful lot. We adults model our behavior toward kids with our picture of we believe God is like. If, deep down we think that God is a graceless parent who forces us to keep our nose clean, ready to lower the hammer at every turn, then guess what? We’re really tough on our kids, maybe even too tough—calling them out at every turn. Calling them out may seem like the best practice for your kids, but honestly, that practice is damaging. Our words matter. I get really frustrated with people who want to call younger generations out for their behavior because they think, believe or behave differently. I understand that not all choices are great choices, but I also know that this next generation needs vision and hope and fresh, godly imagination for their lives. They need parents and an entire community cheering them on and calling them in!

Starting our kids in the way they should go means calling our kids into relationship with us and ultimately with God. Giving our kids a picture of the God of the universe that declared when creating this whole wide world in the first place that it was good and not just good, but God-sized good.

“God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning—the sixth day” (Genesis 1:31 NIV).

It why we believe in God’s prevenient grace. Prevenient grace is God’s love that is available to us, at all times in all seasons of our lives. We don’t earn it, we don’t deserve it, no matter how bad we do on a test, if the dishwasher isn’t emptied on time, if we make a mess of mowing the grass, if we break grandma’s dishes for the 15th time, if we can’t seem to land a job that makes decent pay —there’s grace, there’s love, there is forgiveness. God, our ultimate parent is pursuing you in the middle of your messy life. God does not wait for you to make a first move; God is after you friend!  And that is incredible news. God is calling you in.

Pray with me:

Lord Jesus we can’t do this life in our own strength.  Forgive us for our attempts at control, forgive us for all the worry we carry around, forgives us for calling ourselves and our kids out when you are constantly calling us in.  And may your forgiveness free us for joyful obedience as we surrender our lives to you, take up our daily and human cross and follow you, Jesus.  We pray this together in your holy name.

I love you, God loves you, and there is truly nothing you can do about it.

Rachel Billups 1 Senior Pastor Visionary

Rachel Billups
Senior Pastor | Ginghamsburg Church