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Book Review: Bonding with Your Child Through Boundaries

Bonding Boundaries coverSince reading a highly recommended secular parenting book earlier this summer out of curiosity, I’ve been on a bit of a parenting book binge, looking for intensely practical parenting advice like that book offered, but from a biblical perspective. Bonding with Your Child Through Boundaries by June Hunt, with Peggy Sue Wells, was released by Crossway this summer, and Scott alerted me to it as one I might be interested in reading. In this book, designed for parents of children ages 2-12, Hunt asserts that establishing boundaries (with rewards and repercussions) for your children gives parents both the tools and the freedom to nurture close, Christ-honoring relationships with their children.

A Dallas local, June Hunt has served through a radio and biblical counseling ministry, Hope for the Heart, since 1986. She’s written numerous books on various counseling issues, including an earlier companion volume to this book, Bonding with Your Teen Through Boundaries (2001; revised 2010). Despite her longtime ministry, I was completely new to Hunt, so I didn’t know at all what to expect from this book.

Hunt divides Bonding with Your Child Through Boundaries into two parts. The first part (chapters 1-5) lays a biblical and logical foundation for using boundaries in the home and gives practical tips on ways to set up boundaries in general. The second part, which is the bulk of the book (chapters 6-41), consists of alphabetized chapters offering biblical help for parenting quite a wide variety of behavioral issues that children face: anger and aggression, back talk, bedtime battles, biting, bullying, car etiquette, cell phone struggles, cheating, chores, cliques, clothing clashes, disrespectfulness, disrupting class, forgetfulness, gossip and tattling, harmful habits and addictions, homework hassles, interrupting, lying, mealtime tussles, media mania, money and materialism, music matters, occult fascination, peer pressure, procrastination, profanity and name-calling, sexual curiosity, sexual storms, sibling rivalry and selfishness, sportsmanship spats, stealing, substance abuse, tardiness, temper tantrums, and whining.

Part one had some especially helpful tips, gleaned from Hunt’s niece Kathryn, a mother of six. Some of these tips we’ve already put into practice in our home. My favorites tips that we’ve implemented (or re-implemented) in our family are

  1. Having our kids sign a House Rules document and posting it on our fridge
  2. Re-instating a “token” system for behavior–I revoked this system originally because I don’t want my kids to get the idea that you should behave because you get something out of it, but I like Hunt’s balanced perspective here. She suggests picking only a few specific behaviors that each child needs to work on and awarding tokens when you “catch them” succeeding in these behaviors and taking away tokens when they disobey in these specific areas. So, basically, use the tokens to help them form habits, a few at a time. However, she balances the tokens with the next tip.
  3. What she calls “Angel Activities” (I think I’ll come up with another name), which are doing things for others just because it pleases God rather than for a token or another reward, and making this a regular part of family life
  4. Virtue flowers on the wall–a creative way to both encourage children about virtues/fruits of the Spirit that they already regularly exhibit (each virtue is a flower petal) and to visually show progress of the virtues that they need to work on (these petals “grow” up the stem until they’re a habit, at which time they join the flower); I don’t think in a creative, elementary school way like this, so I’m gonna give this a shot and see if the bright visual reminder helps motivate my kids to work hard on forming habits that don’t come easily for them.

Part two would best serve as an index of sorts to refer back to as problems arise. For this reason, I’d recommend purchasing this book in its paperback form rather than for Kindle. The information in these very brief chapters is both practically helpful and biblically-based. I don’t agree with every single tip in every single list, of course. We have certain standards in place for our family based on our particular theological and philosophical convictions. But on the whole, she offers many valuable suggestions for the various issues in this book.

Each “behavior chapter” includes four sections in which Hunt provides almost script-like advice for dealing with the issue at hand, sprinkling Scripture throughout. The four recurring sections are

  1. What Are Contributing Factors?
  2. What Could You Do?
  3. What Could You Say?
  4. Wisdom from God’s Word

This month I also read Parenting with Scripture by Kara Durbin. Durbin’s book is similarly laid out with alphabetical misbehaviors and also, in her book, positive character traits (for instance, Gentleness, Giving, Godliness, Goodness, Gossip, Greed, Guidance, Guilt). Durbin’s book focuses more on applicable Scripture passages with practical tips sprinkled in. Hunt’s book, in contrast, focuses on practical help with Scripture sprinkled in, though I’d still say that Hunt’s practical helps are based on biblical principles. These two books together make great companion volumes to have in your parenting arsenal. I can see myself referring to these two complementary books often as my children encounter new struggles throughout their childhood years.

Disclaimer: Crossway provided me with a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. 

About Becky Aniol

Becky holds a bachelor's degree in English literature and music, a master's degree in Christian education, and is currently pursuing a PhD in Christian education. She taught classical upper school grammar, literature, and history and lower school composition and grammar for two years, elementary school music for one year, and Kindermusik classes for four years before the birth of her children. She now loves staying home with her four children, Caleb, Kate, Christopher, and Caroline and homeschooling them classically.