If you’re just joining us, we are reading the book Boundaries With Teens: When to Say Yes, How to Say No by Dr. John Townsend. Go to the Reading Schedule if you want to start at the beginning. We are covering chapters 3 and 4 this week. If you would like to join us, you can download the book for Kindle through my affiliate link: Boundaries With Teens and get started right away. Come back every Monday from now through the end of July, as we cover 2 chapters per week and discuss them in the comments of each week’s post.
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I remember when we were going through a tough period with our daughter, and feeling so desperate for someone–anyone– who could relate to what we were going through. It was connections, relationships that I was craving because I knew that I couldn’t go through that trial alone. It was just too much.
We’re all wired this way. God created us for relationship with him and with one another. Often we are too ashamed to share how we really feel. We’re afraid that we will shock someone with a situation they aren’t prepared for.
“You also need friends who are “unshockable”, who have the capacity to hear anything about your teen and not freak out.”
And not just freak out, but completely walk away. It happens. And we need connections! Dr. Townsend explains it this way:
“When you have relationships with people who have grace, you know that you don’t have to have it together. You don’t have to put on a happy face; you can talk about your fears and your failures as a parent. People of grace will move closer to you and not be put off by your issues.”
Your friends don’t have to be parents, either. They just need to be an empathetic ear and willing to point you back to the One who gives grace to us all. And you have to be willing to be vulnerable.
Your friendships with other believers should provide another benefit: the reality check.
They should be quick to point out when you are believing a lie, or being crowded into doing something simply from fear of what your teen will do. They should be clear headed, able to talk you through a crisis when you can’t see beyond the next then minutes.
Are you connected in healthy friendships with other adults?
“Both guilt and fear are internal emotional states that often prevent parents from setting the right boundaries that can help a teen learn responsibility.”
Guilt and fear will keep up from setting the boundaries our kids need because we either don’t want to make waves with them because we’re afraid of how they will react, or we refrain from setting them because we feel guilty about something and try to make up for it by over-compensating somewhere else.
Guilt is me-centered. I feel guilty. I can’t do this. I don’t want to make him mad. Guilt is all about how a situation makes us feel. It can be a consistent way of parenting, although very self-defeating, or it may go in cycles. Remorse, the healthy alternative, focuses on making a situation right with the individual and the effect that it had on him, rather than making yourself feel bad.
Fear is also me-centered. Fear keeps us from doing what we need to do, because we don’t want to make our kids unhappy or even angry with us. We feel that if they withdraw their love, that we will lose them.
This is a manipulation tactic that many teens perfect to extract the best outcome as they see it– our giving up on enforcing boundaries. The trouble is that we shouldn’t get our love quotient filled by our kids anyway! If they learn that they can hurt us they will use it as a tool to manipulate us.
Are you conflict phobic?
I am. I am much more comfortable saying nothing than being the enforcer. It is hard for me to assert those boundaries, knowing that a meltdown, a teenaged tantrum, may occur. However, boundaries are exactly what they need.
Teens live in conflict mode. When we don’t enforce the boundaries, Dr. Townsend says “this teaches adolescents that if they throw a tantrum, they can get out of a limit.” OUCH.