Boundaries with Kids :: A Brief Book Review

Boundaries with Kids

Very few rules with very great follow-through.

That was my parenting motto before reading Boundaries with Kids by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend. I felt like a pretty good parent with the exception of the occasional hormonal outburst when I felt like my brain and my mouth weren’t connecting very well.

I wasn’t sure how much I was really going to learn about parenting from this book, but I was given a copy and encouraged to read it. So, I did even though I usually avoid all parenting books.

Why?

Well, it definitely isn’t because I came naturally to motherhood or boundaries.  And I’m sure pride does play a major part in my previous avoidance of all books in the “parenting” category, but the bottom line for my aversion was fear. Fear of knowing more than I could do.

For me, consistency is huge. Follow-through is one of the foundational building blocks for trust, and I want my children to trust me almost more than I want them to love me (or maybe real trust is real love).

Selfishly then, I try to do my best on my own with what I already know so that I’m not over burdened by all the wonderful opinions and advice contained in all the popular parenting manuals. Because if I know better but can’t perform better then I’ll be too discouraged to even try.

Not to mention the confusion of conflicting messages contained within the top 5 books. Each book forms an “exclusive club” – spankers, praisers, behavior modifiers, etc. I didn’t want to feel conflicted by the pressure to be a purist in any single method.

But Boundaries with Kids by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend was a lot more than just a parenting method book. This resource contains a wealth of information on how to define healthy boundaries, how to unpack the principles of healthy boundaries, and how to execute the principles.

Often when we are speaking on the topic of kids and boundaries, a mom will ask for help with a problem: “I set the boundaries for behavior for my child. But she keeps crossing them. What do I do?” The answer is, “That’s what is supposed to happen. You are the parent. You have a job. You job is to set the limits and enforce the consequences in love. She is the child. She also has a job. Her job is to test the limits many times with her active aggression and thereby learn about reality, relationship, and responsibility. It’s the divinely ordered training system.”

This quote contains the main concept of the book. The authors did a thorough job of answering my top questions: Why do we need boundaries? How are boundaries different than “rules?” What does it look like to set and maintain boundaries? And will there be growth and fruit in the parent-child relationship because of boundaries?

I discovered that I over empathize with my children’s emotions. The scenario of a crying three-year old when mommy leaves the house really hit home with me, and I had to take a hard look at some of the ways I project my feelings (adult size) onto my child. Doing this isn’t fair to the child and it isn’t helpful for building reliable (and loving) limits.

Speaking of “loving limits” – this reminds me so much of the children’s program in BSF. If you want to find a Bible study that has child care, check out Bible Study Fellowship. Their children’s leaders follow such beautiful guidelines for working with and training children that I often felt like this book and their manual could be complimentary. (BSF children’s leaders are some of my very favorite people!)

The other major wake up call for me was in identifying that my children are often passive boundary crossers. Oh my, isn’t it so sneaky how our bent towards self and sin can be masked by being compliant? This section is contained later in the book and up until this point I was reading along with a (slight) chip on my shoulder, thinking we were doing pretty good. I don’t have the kid that throws a WWIII level tantrum in the grocery store – so I’m good!  

Ugh. Nope.

I now think that how my children behave (and how I’ve trained them to behave) is harder to correct than a child who needs to be redirected in their active boundary crossing.

{Groan.}

While this has created more work for me and has opened my eyes to see the change that needs to happen, it has birthed enough hope and desire for healthy relationships that I feel motivated to work on establishing healthy boundaries. Besides, this is the year of GROW, right? It all fits.

There were a few things that I didn’t love about the book though, and it took a lot of concerted effort to finish this book. (I was often tempted to put it down in favor of lighter, more entertaining reading.) But I want to FINISH what I start this year. I want to follow through on even the little things that I start. This is part of how I measure growth in my own life.

Here are the ways I feel like the book fell short of being the “perfect” parenting book:

  • There aren’t enough stories. The stories that are included mainly focus on working out boundaries and consequences with teenage kids. Some of the most powerful applications of consequences were dependent on the child having to stay home alone while the rest of the family enjoyed an outing.
  • The conversations included from their own younger children didn’t feel organic. I felt like I was reading “staged” material.
  • When scripture was included, it was used to support their principle without much context or explanation of the verses. I felt like they could have developed the connection using scripture as their starting point.
  • I was hoping for more practical ideas for consequences. I’m not creative enough to figure out a consequence that will really teach. A “time out” sometimes is exactly what my 9 year old introvert wants! Win win for her, she disobeyed and got alone time too! I was looking for ideas on how to correct without being too complacent or too strict.

I do recommend this book, especially for anyone struggling with discerning where their identity stops and where their child’s starts. It’s all too easy to get emotionally tangled up in doing our very best for our kids. But like it was pointed out in the book, my parenting is temporary. The goal is to raise an adult with healthy boundaries.

Check out Boundaries with Kids. And check out what I’m reading this year!

Read and Grow.

Photo credit.

It’s happening again. And I’m so utterly excited and thankful. Life has presented me with a challenge, and God has birthed in my heart a craving to grow.

The desire and motivation are a gift. I didn’t design it nor can I contain it.

This happened once before, a little over 7 years ago. I wrote about my desire to change, to fix a character flaw. It was truly the beginning of my blogging journey as well. I had no idea that writing my way through that year would serve to fundamentally define me as a writer.

Isn’t that just the way God works? Those mysterious ways that come upon us, altering us in areas beyond imagination.

Last year, I tried to manufacture my growth by setting up a reading challenge full of deep and delightful titles. But even while creating the list, I could feel my own distance – reluctance that I ignored because I wanted to teach myself a lesson in discipline. I was tricked by my own success with growing productively into believing that I could force growth in any area. I didn’t honor my limits, I wasn’t being gracious with my weakness, I over estimated my strengths.

I was sick of being held back. I thought pushing through, trying harder, and thinking big would free me from my own struggle with my brain.  

Dealing with my ADD brain can be tricky. Sometimes I do need to “sit myself down” and “obey the list.” I’m learning that I can only make progress through this type of firmness in the area of productivity not the area of contemplation. I need to budget my energy to fuel these two parts of my mind (there’s a post brewing on this topic…). I’m realizing again that God gave me this brain with all of it’s limits and talents for His purposes to be used in His timing. 

So, I’m excited for this year and the growth I can see up ahead, but I’m not ashamed of last year’s “failure” because I recognized an important, personal limitation and learned to respect it. More on this later.

For now, I can see that the challenge in my life is CHANGE. There is change all around me. My kids are all coming out of a coasting season. Their interests, competencies, and complexities are on the rise. Taking just this area of change into view, I see that I will have to change in order to rise to the occasion of being the kind of mother I want to be for my loves.

Questions: How can I rise to the occasion on my own? What strength or talent do I possess that will allow for personal growth? Can I contain or conjure up a motive that will sustain growth over a long period of time?

Answers: I can’t. Nothing. No.

What gives? Why am I excited if I can’t do this on my own? Exactly because the desire, strength, motive aren’t coming from my decision, I can trust that I won’t have to worry about controlling or maintaining them.

It’s like the “Field of Dreams.” I feel like the Lord is showing me how much great change is ahead of me, and all I have to do is pick up the book and read. He will grow me from the inside.

And He already has. Since the beginning of 2017, I’ve been reading. I’ll do my best to share the most of what I gain from the titles this year. And I’ll keep the list here as a reference.

Books read in 2017 (I’ll link the ones I review):

  • BFG by Roald Dahl*
  • Gifted: Raising Children Intentionally by Chris Davis
  • Boundaries with Kids by Dr. Henry Cloud & Dr. John Townsend
  • Present Over Perfect by Shauna Niequist
  • Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes by Jonathan Auxier
  • Trim Healthy Mama Cookbook by Pearl & Serene
  • Simply Tuesday by Emily Freeman
  • Currently reading: Money Making Mom by Crystal Paine, The Night Gardener, Peter Nimble (out loud with my kids now), The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin, The Well-Educated Mind by Susan Wise Bauer

Are you interested in following me in this process of change through reading? I’m ready to really GROW. Let me know in the comments what books you’re reading and what you recommend! Who doesn’t want to GROW their TBR list even more? ;)

Here’s my Amazon list for easy reference. If you make a purchase, Amazon thanks me at no cost to you.

* Audio book

Photo credit.

What if her interests aren’t “good” enough? (How I’m raising an independent woman.)

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My daughter and I were watching TV together over the Christmas holiday. A commercial came that was glorifying new cars.

(Side note: I’ve trained my kids to analyze and pick apart commercials. Their critiques of products sold on TV are hilarious.)

JoeAnna (9 years old) looks at me and asks, “What’s the big deal about buying a new car? Why do people get so excited about it?”

“Well, it’s kind of the same feeling as getting your driver’s license when you turn 16. Learning to drive is exciting, and some cars are more fun to drive than others.” I reply.

“Is it illegal not to have a driver’s license?” She asks.

“If you’re driving and you don’t have a license, then yes. You’ll get in big trouble.”

“But what if you don’t drive, do you have to have a license?”

“Well, no. You do not have to get a driver’s license.”

“Oh good. I think I’ll just roller blade where I want to go. I could get a job as a waitress and live here when I’m an adult. I think I just want an easy life.”

“That sounds good to me!” I say while trying not to laugh.

***

My dear Joe is a hard nut to crack. She lives in her own mind so much that it’s often difficult to get her full attention. Example: “Joe, please brush your hair.” I find her brushing her teeth. Only the word “brush” penetrated her brain.

In her mind, she is constantly creating big plans for expanding upon her latest obsessions: Legos creations, Daily Prophet articles, MLP collections, etc. She dreams big, plays big, and feels big. As she navigates late childhood, I’m watching her try to categorize everything. Black or white. Good or bad. Easy or hard. As she processes this information, she’s making her own connections that aren’t always reliable. Like, everything hard is bad (or should at least be avoided).

And I can’t blame her. Who doesn’t want to avoid pain at all costs?

While I recognize the importance of teaching her to stretch and reach for personal goals, I believe it’s more important at this stage in her development (forming categories of safe and unsafe things) for her to know that I’m always, unconditionally safe. I want nothing more than for her to grow into a woman who confidently believes that her mother supports and loves her no matter what.

But she won’t grow in believing that I am truly safe if I don’t value her current plans for her life. If I hear her statement that she wants to live with me forever, and I refuse to affirm that, then I am not listening to the cry of her heart.

She can’t grasp the reality that as she evolves into an adult and ages into her unique self her interests will change. Right now, she believes that because her feelings are big, her feelings won’t change.

If I correct her feelings and try to tell her that she will change her mind (because I’m sure she will change her mind), then I am pushing her to spread her wings too quickly. I do not want her to be scared by thinking that I want her to be independent of me too soon. If she doesn’t feel ready to be independent of me, then any thought of a future where she isn’t in the comfort of a safe place will be avoided.

The truth is she will become independent of me – that’s the whole goal of parenting a child into adulthood. Healthy independence is gained through embracing personal responsibility and identity, and it should not be confused with individuality.

So, I am fighting to keep her heart safe while fueling her individuality, honoring her feelings, expanding her personal responsibility, and praising her attempts at doing what she views as “hard.”  

To put these goals into action, I’m designing a life project for her that I believe can do 2 things:

  1. Reassure her that the life she wants (an easy one) is fine by me. I want her to be affirmed that I love her just because she is and not because she does. I know that her heart craves security, so I vow to be her safe place by offering her loving words and deeds.
  2. Curate opportunities outside of our home for her to see and experience what her future could hold. I want to give her a taste of a loftier future. By seeking out other caring adults who have similar interests to hers, I believe she will see that trying and reaching are worth it.

I’ll write more on what this “Life Project” will entail as we get further into it, and I hope that if you have a child who feels stuck or avoids work that you will not approach them with a “get going” attitude.

Maybe they don’t need to be motivated.

Maybe they need to just be accepted.

Maybe my Joe just needs to hear:

I am for you, and I will be with you. If being a waitress is truly what fuels you and causes you to come alive, then I will be your biggest cheerleader (and biggest tipper too).

 

*** I’m sharing this story with Joe’s permission.

 

Coming down from my (blogging) high horse.

I started this blog in 2015 with the intention of making it a professional bloga space for intentional encouragement and help for anyone wanting to learn on their own. The target audience being homeschool families like mine.

In addition to providing professional content, I wanted to build a business that would provide my family with additional income by tapping into the online wealth of affiliate sales, pay-per-click ads, sponsorship, etc. All of this can be done without compromising content, and I saw it as a win-win. (This is not a slam on professional bloggers who do earn their income from their blogs.)

Somewhere between starting the blog, researching brand-building and income sources, and writing inspired content I created a standard for this blog that is higher than I can realistically reach. After spending hours studying what it takes to build a professional blog, I became unsatisfied with just sharing what I had to say.

I rose the bar. I required pictures with text, back links to every possible post I’ve ever written, and a closure complete with disclosures, subscription invitation, and general marketing ads.

For a while, this wasn’t difficult. I had the passion, the time, and the ideas to fuel this standard. I established a routine that worked well for me, my family, and the blog to coexist in harmony.

And then I had a baby.

You’re smiling. Babies always make people smile either because they are just adorable or because you know what I’m about to say. Babies are known for requiring more time than any one person can give.

I was prepared for this, and I didn’t want having a baby to define me. I love all my children enormously AND (not but) I need to maintain my own identity as woman, wife, writer, teacher, creative being, etc.

So, as I was coming to a new normal after Naomi was born, I started writing again. I started an accountability program with those who chose that option in their subscription to this blog (I still know you’re out there and patiently waiting!).

And one Saturday I spent every single spare moment writing one blog post. It took me the whole day. My husband entertained all the kids while I worked. At the end of the day, I was finished but not satisfied.

I was failing the standard that I created. So, I did what every person does who fears failure: I hid.

I didn’t want to quit what I started, but I knew I couldn’t perform at the level that I wanted. So, I avoided everything related to my blog. For over a month, I didn’t even visit the blog myself!

After a while, I had to really confront myself with the decision of what to do next. Do I let it go? Do I pull myself back up, press on, and pretend nothing happened? Or do I lay all my cards on the table and start over?

Well, maybe not start over, but undergo a make-under.

So, I’m going to keep writing. I’ll get back to my roots of sharing what I’m learning, how I’m changing, and why that matters to me. I hope to always spread encouragement and to research and analyze things to make your life easier. I will continue to suggest resources that are relevant and timely, but I’m not going to try to earn an income with every single post. (Can I get an amen?)

I still respect professional bloggers; I think you’re amazing! But I can’t continue to pretend that I’m up there on a high horse too. (No offense, I don’t think other bloggers are arrogant – just above my realistic reach.)

So, high fives all around. This blog is undergoing a make-under. I hope you’ll stick with me.

Here are a few ideas I have brewing for new posts:

  • Organization is like dirty laundry.
  • I’m breaking up with balance.
  • Am I okay with my child’s goals in life? (Why do I feel like she has to do more, be more?)
  • Let’s revisit the beauty of kitchen timers.

Here are a few changes I want to make:

  • Less pictures in each post to relieve the pressure on my writing so that I can actually write more!
  • More pictures on Instagram where the moments really make a difference anyway. Check out my Instagram profile here.
  • No sales. I don’t want to ask you to buy anything or hide a product within a post. 
  • Actual reviews of products when appropriate. I’m keeping the freedom to use affiliate links but removing the pitch that this is for you. If I write about a product, then it will be to detail how it has worked/not worked for me. 

Sound good? Ah. Being down to earth feels much better. 

Keep on learning, growing, changing, and being true to your stage of life!