Guardrails Are Only as Good as The Road

Starting this Thursday, I am excited to pass on Jonathan McKee’s series on “Guardrails.” Jonathan McKee is the president of The Source for Parents and is the author of numerous books including the new Candid Confessions of an Imperfect Parent, and youth ministry books like Ministry By Teenagers, Connect: Real Relationships in a World of Isolation, and the award winning book Do They Run When They See You Coming? Jonathan came and spoke to our families at Eastern Hills. His truth and candidness was refreshing and very eye-opening. Jonathan and his wife Lori, and their three teenagers Alec, Alyssa and Ashley live in California. Here is the first of 5 articles in this series.

This week I’m posting a series in this blog about the guardrails parents need to set along the road of life. After all, I’m asked the same question at every parenting workshop I teach. It usually sounds something like this: “In a culture that provides so many profane distractions that are impossible to dodge, what guardrails should I set to protect our kids?”

Nothing like being under the gun—when I’m asked that question during a ‘question & answer’ time where the format provides only one to two minutes for answers. I’m always thinking, I teach a two hour workshop on this very subject… how am I gonna answer this in two minutes!

I guess the short answer is this:

Guardrails are only part of any road taken. The biggest question to consider is… where is this road going?

This brings up the foundational issue of ones values. What are your values based on? What is your purpose? If our kids are true believers, then hopefully, they are putting Christ at the center of their life and seeking to become more like Him. All their decisions should flow from this sense of value and purpose. The boundaries we impose should probably keep them from veering off course, but not end up being roadblocks to learning healthy discernment.

Embarking on the Road of Biblical Truth
Our kids need to be hearing the truth. So instead of just setting up rules like, “No R-rated movies”, instead parents need to consider some bigger more foundational questions:
1.Are your kids hearing the truth from God’s word in the home?
2.Do you have a regular time where you meet with your kids—breakfast, coffee, etc.—to build into them and teach them lasting values?
3.Are your kids plugged into a church where they hear Godly teaching?
4.Do your kids have another adult mentor that is discipling them and/or encouraging them in their relationship with God?

If these venues where values are communicated don’t exist, then where is the undergirding for your rules?

The Bible is our best source of truth that will guide their decision-making. For example, when our kids are at school and they are questioning how to treat others, they might reflect on a passage they digested last summer at their Bible study:

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. (Philippians 2: 3-4, NIV)

As they consider this truth from God’s Word, they realize that they need to consider the needs of others. In the same way, if a teenage boy or girl begins to see sex as something recreational, because almost every character on TV and movies seems to believe this, they will remember what they read in their time along reading the Bible last week:

Flee from sexual immorality (sex outside of marriage). All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body. (I Corinthians 6: 18, NIV, parenthetical mine)

The Bible provides truth from which much of their decision-making can flow.

So, am I saying that if our kids read the bible… they don’t need any boundaries from us?

Unfortunately, it’s not that simple.


1.Our guardrails help provide the accountability that keeps them on course. They might have full intention on not having sex before they’re married, but they lack the wisdom and discernment to understand exactly what “fleeing” looks like. Your son might not realize that hanging out at his girlfriends house when her parents aren’t home is flirting with disaster. Your daughter might not realize the pressure that a boyfriend can put on her when she puts herself in precarious situations.
2.The Bible doesn’t provide guardrails for everything. What time should our kids go to bed? Should junior high boys shower every day? Can our teenagers leave their cell phones powered on and available on their nightstand all night long? The Bible doesn’t touch on these issues, but parents might need to enforce rules that help their kids (especially younger kids) learn some of this basic wisdom.

Parents can help their kids stay on course by setting guardrails.

So what are some common guardrails that we might want to consider setting?

Next Thursday I will continue this series with Jonathan’s post, “No Rules by Age 17½.”

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