Healthy Boundaries For All
We are going deep into the murky waters of relationships this week. One of the most complicated relationships we have is our association with our children and parents. Our kids are borne of us but are not us. Our parents gave us everything and we are not beholden to them. This is just the beginning and we’re already confused.
Lee says: I remember the day I became a Mom for the first time. I felt sick to my stomach and immediately had a headache. The contradictions of parenting and your feelings for your kids make it impossible to stay out of the dysfunctional arena. We know our job is to raise them to be good citizens and to model the best behavior. However, what do you do when another kid smacks your precious baby or an adult crushes their hopes to be the next world famous tuba player? All I say is, God help those people because I would kill them.
I’m a firm believer in boundaries in all relationships and this is imperative in parenting. Establishing boundaries with our kids not only teach them respect and creates safety but also teaches a child individuality. As in any relationship preserving your ‘you-ness’ is so important. Wives who become just an appendage of their husband’s or kids who are trophies or extensions of their parents are the classic examples of what happens in the land without boundaries. You wouldn’t expect a Mama’s Boy to be a CEO or Norman Bates to be a good husband and father.
Which of course brings us to rule number two of healthier relationships:
Establish healthy boundaries with everyone.
It sounds simplistic but it seems virtually impossible for people to accomplish this. Violating boundaries is like a past time for people. Insulting, assuming, disrespecting, touching, ignoring are just some ways that boundaries get violated on a daily basis. How often do you do this to people? Our kids are the biggest victims of these violations. Even on a community level we tend to ignore the needs of kids and then try to smooth it over by saying ‘We’re doing all of this for the children’. We, as a community, don’t give a shit for the children! Trust me! I see how much my neighbors recycle.
Paul says: I think the difficulties with creating boundaries with our children are that they are different from those that we have with other adults and that they change. I know that the relationship that I have with my friends generally does not allow me to lean over the table and say ‘Hey, you don’t want dessert. Let’s try making healthy choices’ unless I want my ass thoroughly kicked. Yet with our kids, we have these conversations daily. They are a matter of parenting responsibility.
Establishing boundaries in children is an interesting double edge sword that we generally do not deal with in adults. Technically, when a person creates a boundary with us, we have the choice whether or not to accept that boundary. With adults, we usually set the boundary and the other person either accepts it or the relationship ends.
‘Stop cheating on me.’
With children we violate their boundaries all of the time without the relationship ending.
‘I want candy.’
‘OK, how about an apple?’
The other stumbling block to good child-parent relationships is that that boundary conversation changes over the years. The ‘I want candy’ dialogue is very different for a 6 year old, a 16 year old, and a 26 year old. I work very hard at seeing my teenage daughter as my little girl (because I believe that daddy’s are supposed to do that) while allowing her to create healthy burgeoning adult boundaries. I’m the first to acknowledge that she is better at making healthy boundaries with me than I am with her. I know that I have mixed messages like ‘tell me everything but not the scary stuff’. Hey, I see it, I acknowledge it, and I’m working on it.
Lee continues: Or we take it too far and give them too much leeway to create boundaries. ‘Of course my precious Porsche, your pony can sleep in your room.’ The operative term is ‘HEALTHY’ boundaries.