I want to study today about boundaries.
Last night, Becky had a tough time: my parents are here, she feels they are always looking over her shoulder, and, in addition to that, both Chloe and Caleb actually shamed her right in front of my mom.
This was hard for her.
She already thinks my parents think it’s her fault that I’ve done what I’ve done (not true at all – at least the part about it being her fault). She already feels like they judge how she does things. She already feels worthless at times.
And then for her kids to tell her their friends mom is nicer than she is or that she’s mean to one of their friends, right in front of my mom – not a good situation.
I tried to talk to her about it last night but things didn’t go too well.
I really don’t even know what to say. What the kids said wasn’t true, at least from my perspective. But what they said was hurtful. And to make it worse, my mom was right there listening in and probably validating whatever they said in her mind. Who knows…
So, boundaries. What are they? How are they created? What is right to create as a boundary and what isn’t? How do you present them to the person or people that need them? What should the consequences be for broken boundaries?
I feel Beck was inspired to create boundaries for me when everything came out: I had to know what was going to help me heal the pain and damage I’d caused and what would only make it worst. Boundaries and “burying my weapons of war” went hand in hand, and still do to this day, in my recovery.
I Googled “setting boundaries with parents” and found quite a few articles. The first one hit home:
As an adult, loving and honoring your parents does not equal obeying. God placed you with your parents for a season of time to help you grow into a mature adult. At some point this season ends, and your relationship with your mom and dad changes from child-to-parent to adult-to-adult. The roles change from dependency and authority to mutuality. While you are to respect and care for your parents, you are no longer under their protection and tutelage. Children are to obey parents, while adult children are to love and honor them. Therefore, sometimes you will need to confront parents, disobeying their desire for you to agree with them or go along with a bad situation.
My job and Becky’s job is not to blindly obey my parents wishes. My job and Becky’s job is not to please them in every way we handle things. Our job, instead, is to do what we feel is best for ourselves and for our kids individually.
Our relationship at this point is adult-to-adult, and not child-to-parent.
Consequences are an important part of boundaries, which I’ll get to in a second, but they need to be immediate, concrete and directed at the people whose invasiveness you’re trying to thwart.
A viable boundary involves a cause (their behavior), an effect (your response to their behavior), a clear statement of your position, and a direct consequence…
Cause: “Mom, Dad — recently you’ve responded to my choices with pressure, judgment and negativity, and you did a similar thing to Brother as he was planning his wedding.”
Effect: “When you scream, yell and send me 2 a.m. e-mails, I feel stressed and [your other feelings here].”
Position: “I will no longer discuss my relationship or my decisions with you — not until you’re ready to trust that you raised me well enough to handle my own life, including any mistakes I make.”
Consequence: If they keep up the hysterics, you respond calmly and decisively by .?.?. hanging up the phone/leaving the room/deleting the e-mail/opting out of the family holiday.
So how would I apply this?
For the criticism of how we do things around the home and with the kids
Cause: Mom and Dad, we like seeing you, but when you come to our home, you often bring with you a constructive criticism about a variety of things we do, either with the kids, with our home, or whatever.
Effect: These “suggestions” or “questions” are not invited nor are they your business at this point. Our relationship is adult-to-adult and not child-to-parent. Not only do your suggestions make us feel like we aren’t living up to your expectations, but they cause resentment in our home that isn’t necessary.
Position: Please keep your opinions and suggestions to yourself. Please don’t offer to “help” around the house unless we ask for your help. Your help around the house is, in our opinion, your way of fixing what you feel is broken. When we visit you in Idaho, the last thing we would ever do is go into one of your rooms or a storage unit and start “cleaning things up” or rearranging things.
Consequence: If these feelings of criticism and question continue, we will prefer to visit you in Idaho and not have you come stay at our home. When we come to Idaho, we don’t feel the judgment as much; but in our home, it doesn’t seem to ever end.
For staying for long periods of time at our home
Cause: Mom and Dad, we appreciate your support of our kids at their activities and we enjoy seeing you, but when you come visit we need to set boundaries on how long you are here and when you are going to leave.
Effect: The longer you stay at our home, the more stress and tension we feel. Having visitors at our home is fine, but when we aren’t sure how long the visitors are going to stay and what their expectations are for eating and entertainment, this is stressful on our marriage and family relationships. We have so much on our plate as it is; adding more to it makes things a lot more difficult.
Position: Please limit how often you come to our home and please only stay for a maximum of 3 days and 2 nights.
Consequence: If you continue to come and go as you please, we will ask you to get a hotel or something when you come or we will limit how often you can come to our home.
Here’s a little more from another article:
If your parents abused you when you were a child, how do you care for them without harming yourself by being subjected to ongoing criticism and abuse?
Did my parents abuse me as a kid? I don’t think terribly, although emotional abuse is a possibility. The shame, the blame, the co-dependency, the expectations – these may be forms of emotional abuse.
Many counselors would suggest “detaching with love.” Detaching is a method of setting boundaries to protect yourself. It can also mean that you give up the notion that you can control their behavior, and you stop allowing them to control yours. It’s hard. It takes practice. But for many, detaching works.
One thing that can help is to realize that the little kid inside of us most likely still wants our parents’ approval. When we can’t get that, even as adult caregivers, it hurts. To cope with those needs, it often helps to learn the techniques of detachment.
People detach by learning to understand that they can’t control their parents (or spouse), so they stop trying. Sometimes, just this step makes a difference, as the person who has been pushing your buttons – making you angry because he or she knows your triggers – starts to see it doesn’t work. Detaching with love means that you affirm that you love the person, but will no longer tolerate being treated with meanness or disrespect.
You set boundaries and make them clear. If the parent continues to complain just to see your reaction or to manipulate you, criticize your every move and generally abuse you verbally, you tell them you will get someone else to take care of them until you both cool off.
I feel this is really applicable too. The criticism, the contention – this stuff isn’t good at all and is hurtful to me, to Becky and even to our kids. We don’t want or need this in our home – PERIOD. If it continues, they won’t be welcome here until they are willing to make changes in their own lives.
Although this wasn’t necessarily spiritual in nature, I do feel good about this study and hopefully it will move things in the right direction.