I am reading a book that’s so transformative to me that I can’t even wait until I’m done to talk about what I’ve learned so far. Last week I talked about my perfectionism and how at its roots, it was a way to avoid negative emotions. I picked up the book Boundaries by Dr. Henry Cloud to start addressing my issues and it turns out that I do indeed have boundary issues, particularly in parenting.
In fact, Boundaries ought to be required reading for every parent leaving the hospital. Why don’t they do that by the way? Give you manuals for those littles ones. They pop out and they say HERE, HAVE FUN! By the way, MR. DOCTOR SIR, A LOT OF THIS IS NOT FUN.
So Boundaries is all about learning when to say yes and when to say no and why it’s important, particularly when you’re raising kids. although it is applicable to anyone at any stage of life.
What I’m seeing now is most of my frustration with parenting to date is because I have not been respecting an emotional boundary with my kids. Boundaries define what is my responsibility and what is their responsibility. Their bad behavior should reap negative consequences—both emotional and practical—and paid by them, not me. I am only responsible for my own emotions and consequences of my actions.
To date, this is how I processed an infraction by one of my darlings.
Let’s just say little Suzy disobeys me. My immediate reaction is frustration/anger because once again they have disobeyed a rule we have talked about. In my head, I know they should suffer a consequence, but my emotional side takes over. If I give them this consequence, they are going to be SO MAD, I think. And I do not want them to feel so mad and sad. My poor little Suzy, I want her to be HAPPY. And so, I choose just to talk about it with Suzy. Suzy, you know we’ve talked about this before, don’t do that again. There, I have addressed the issue, I think. They understand that’s a rule they shouldn’t break. My parenting job is done.
Or so I thought.
And yet, I am still feeling angry because they didn’t own up to any consequences (because I didn’t make them) and they are happy because they haven’t and I’m even more frustrated they are not feeling remorseful for their behavior. Why would they?
What I am learning is I have violated God’s law of sowing and reaping. They have sown bad behavior but I have reaped their consequences. They are “irresponsible and happy and I am responsible and miserable”!
I thought a good conversation would be enough, but that is not what an irresponsible person needs. Dr. Cloud says it like this:
It doesn’t help just to confront the irresponsible person. A client will often say to me, “But I confront Jack. I have tried many times to let him know what I think about his behavior and that he needs to change.” In reality, my client is only nagging Jack. Jack will not feel the need to change because his behavior is not causing him any pain. Confronting an irresponsible person is not painful to him; only consequences are.
If Jack is wise, confrontation might change his behavior. But people caught in destructive patterns are usually not wise. They need to suffer consequences before they change their behavior. The Bible tell us it is worthless to confront foolish people: “Do not rebuke a mocker or he will hate you; rebuke a wise man and he will love you” (Prov 9:8)
And let’s face it, our children are not wise men. They still have a lot of learning to do to be responsible adults and God’s laws say paying for your consequences (reaping) is how you learn to avoid bad behavior (sowing).
So, I’m learning that I am doing them a favor by teaching them boundaries. It is not my responsibility to shoulder their emotional response to the consequence.
I’ts amazing how frustrated I have been at parenting when really, I was the one that needed to change.
The past few days I have started to put this into practice. I have begun seeing the consequences as a loving response (we have a behavior chart which leads to no screen time the next day). I am teaching them boundaries which they will use the rest of their lives. They will learn that bad behavior means bad consequences. I can see God’s law of sowing and reaping in effect and ironically it has brought such peace knowing that things are working just as they were meant to.