It is the nature of children to push boundaries every day, and all the time. Growing humans learn by testing the rules and challenging the boundaries in a search to discover what and where the real limitations are. This drive, composed of curiosity, creativity and energy is how humanity thrives, grows, and stretches its capacity to do and be more. It is a good thing.
As a parent and teacher, reminding myself of this innate drive helps when the boundary testing is especially repetitive and exhausting. I do this by imagining children’s boundary pushing nature to be like electrons. Electrons are essential components of atoms that are constantly in motion; it is just what they do, their movement is chaotic by nature. When electrons are in your family circuit, there is little use in getting tired, mad, or frustrated with them.
Electrons need resistors in a circuit to be effective. Resistors come in many varieties, their purpose is to protect the circuit and slow down the flow of electrons so the circuit does not break. Resistors keep the flow of electrons in balance. When the voltage is too high, (too many electrons) the resistor draws more power and current then it can handle, gets hot and may go up in flames with a cloud of smoke.
Dear parents and caregivers, you are the resistors in a family circuit and managing electrons is nonstop. The boundaries you are teaching and keeping are essential for children to thrive. Boundaries are fundamentally about being respectful and understanding of the needs of others, while being understanding and respecting our own needs. This is sacred, rigorous, foundational work.
Unlike electrons, our human nature’s do mature, and your child’s awareness and empathy will develop over time. Meanwhile, may you remember that your needs are important boundaries too, and remember you are not alone. Fellow resistors come in many shapes, sizes and diverse temperaments and many of them can be found at church.
Rev. Kimberlee Tomczak Carlson, Minister of Religious Education