When I was a boy, we had a Collie named Champ. My parents were out of town when Champ was hit by a car and killed. I can still remember my tears as the lady who was staying with me helped bury our dog in the far corner of the backyard. At the time (I was about twelve) I didn’t understand how something like that could have happened.
Now, of course, I know exactly how it happened. We didn’t have a fence. Champ was allowed to roam free. And a dog without a boundary is certain to meet disaster sooner or later.
Even as fully-functioning-adult-human-beings, you and I are exactly the same: A person without boundaries is certain to meet disaster sooner or later.
Of the many types of people that exist, one of the most curious to me is the individual who shuns boundaries of any kind. They seem to live by the mantra, “Nobody tells me what to do.” They are quick to take offense and easily recognized by a quick temper. They go from job to job often citing the boss or coworkers as “the problem.” As fiercely intent on being “free” as these folks are determined to be, they never seem to understand that it is the very absence of boundaries in their life that causes most of their problems.
“Boundaries,” my friend Patsy Clairmont says, “are not necessarily in place to restrict us. They are often to protect us.”
Some of the happiest men and women I know are incredibly observant of boundaries. The success of their relationships gives evidence to their manners and thoughtful actions toward others. Manners and thoughtful actions are boundaries taught by careful parents, but ultimately a matter of choice for every adult.
It has actually been proven that children are happiest when aware of specific boundaries. Several years ago, at an elementary school in New York, the playground fences were taken down during a weekend. Nothing was announced, but the kids were watched carefully to see what their reaction would be.
Before the removal of the fence, the children ran and played games using the entire schoolyard. Without the visible boundary, however, the games appeared to be halfhearted and the children noticeably gathered toward the center of the playground.
The following weekend, again with no announcement of any kind, the fence was put back in place. Immediately, with the advent of the first recess with the fence, the kids again used the entire playground.
Are we so different from children? When you and I observe boundaries, aren’t we happier and more productive in every part of our lives? I believe the boundaries I observe about what I read, what I eat (and how much), and what I say work to constantly shape who I am trying to become.
So allow me to ask for your help. We would all like to know…
1) What are the most effective boundaries you observe for yourself or teach to your children?
2) Can you think of an example of a “disaster” that could have been avoided if someone had only observed a boundary?