Letting children run wild does them no good. It never does anyone any good, no matter how old we get. Allowing someone to ignore the boundary lines and break important rules not only harms other people, it harms the person breaking those rules and crossing those boundaries.
The damage of being allowed to live without boundaries occurs on multiple levels. It “enables” bad behavior to continue by “sending the wrong message”. An athlete who can’t play within regulation lacks skill. Little, cute Johnny may seem adorable to the in-laws while he fumbles around with the soccer ball at 7 years old, but unless he focuses his efforts he’ll grow up to be inept rather than a starter athlete appreciated by his teammates and adored by the crowd.
Receiving direction feels constricting at first, but it eventually empowers, like the focused light of a laser or magnifying glass.
Constriction and control is not an end in itself. Helen Keller was wild, unrestrained, and insufferable as a child, until a tutor was able to teach her the concept of meaning. She needed direction, but it had to be coupled with understanding. She had unusual obstacles that needed to be overcome first, but most of us don’t have the luxury of that excuse. Boundaries still must be enforced, usually without as much patience as an unusual “Keller” case requires.
Blowing the whistle when the ball goes OB helps the learning athlete understand gravity, how the world works, the flow of the wind, and what happens in the game. For rookies unable to stay in bounds, remove the lines from the court so the rookies don’t learn to ignore them. Parents of children who grow to be respected as adults will say to the five year old, “Oops, it went over the line. So, it’s my ball now. Tough luck.” That child will learn quickly to be awesome and other parents will never figure out why, but they will always be jealous. Good leaders kindly do the same with everyone, with everything, everywhere.
Learning to color inside the lines is about more than “neatness” and “organization”; it may not even hurt anyone; but staying within the lines proves skill.