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Boundaries for Kids

January 9, 2018 - Stacey Sacco
Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend have a series of books about boundaries in all types of relationships. A few months ago, I read “Boundaries in Marriage,” which is the best marriage book I’ve ever read. Their basic method is knowing “when to say yes and how to say no to take control of your life.”

The message is that we can not change other people through coercion or threats. At the same time, we do not have to tolerate being manipulated, ignored, or disrespected. We have freedom to say yes and no within all relationships.

Since their initial best-selling book “Boundaries” that outlined this theory, they have added to the mix Boundaries in Marriage, Dating, Parenting, and for Leaders.

I used to read every parenting book I could get my hands on. There’s a good chance I was a very confused parent for awhile. For the last several years, I’ve only read a few after very careful vetting. After reading the book on marriage and hearing their reasonable and practical advice, I thought I would try the parenting book. I’m glad I did. There is one specific piece of information that I’m using everyday to make life a little better for me and prepare the kids for a better, more responsible future.

Solving conflict and troublesome behavior without yelling or just giving up, “Boundaries with Kids” provides real-life examples and actionable steps to take. A lot of it may sound like common sense, but parents know that when dealing with a three year old melting down in the middle of Target or a tween screaming about how unfair we are, it’s difficult to think before we speak. I’m sure every parent can find something to relate to and a method to improve their relationships with their children.

One of the most valuable pieces of information for me was about transferring responsibility. When things are going downhill, my voice gets louder and louder. Before I know it, I’m yelling. However, when I start to yell, my kid’s problem becomes an angry parent. I want the problem to be that he can’t find his shoes or she isn’t ready for bed. In the mind of a kid, once I start to yell, they forget about the original problem and just focus on doing what it take to get their parent to stop yelling.

I need to stop assuming responsibility for their problems. Even a three-year-old should know that her temper tantrum is her own responsibility. If I’m out of control, she will lose focus on what the actual problem is. A school-aged kids problem should be that they didn’t complete a homework assignment, not that they have a parent who is angry about it.

It’s changed the way I think about dealing with the kids. As my heart rate and blood pressure increase or as the minutes tick away while a kid is still ambling around the house looking for a lost glove, I keep reminding myself of where the focus needs to remain. I never want the solution to be “get mom to stop losing her mind.” My anger distracts them from solving the actual problem. Saying nothing would be better than yelling. At least then they are forced to own the problem.

There are a so many good points in the book. For our family at this point, this was the biggest encouragement for me. I want to yell less anyway. We all know it’s not effective. This is the perfect reminder to stop. They need to learn to solve the right problem so we aren’t doing the same things day after day. I can’t yell if I want their focus to remain on the right thing.


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