I was recently reading a book about setting boundaries. For example, with a toddler throwing a tantrum at dinner time, you might say, "If you want to cry, cry in your room, but you aren't ruining dinner for the entire family." Ding Dong! The light bulb turned on for me. (Again!) Why do I keep allowing our youngest to go on and on and on with her tantrums. You know that phase when they can't be pleased no matter what you offer them.
I've started saying to her, if you want to cry, you can go cry up in your room, but you aren't crying in my kitchen. When she starts with her tantrums, we try to listen to her and understand what she needs, but when she's crying for the sake of crying, we send her up to her room until she's calm and can rejoin us. Sometimes it takes a few tries on the reentry, but she's getting the idea now, and her behavior has improved. She knows what the boundaries are and that we are going to stick to them, and she's not spending hours on end screaming at my feet in the kitchen while I'm working for our family.
My love for her has grown tremendously. I'm guessing she'd say the same for me. She's not dealing with such a worn down, angry, frustrated momma. I have the patience to read her Beauty and the Beast over and over before her nap because I'm not completely exasperated with her tantruming behavior. My choice to set a boundary "you can't tantrum in my kitchen" has been not only incredibly helpful to my mental health, but to her happiness as well.
When I read those words from the author, my gut feeling was a little embarrassed. Why didn't I put at end to this sooner? Why haven't I been doing that all along? I know better, but it's been a while since I've had such a strong-willed toddler. I let a lot of frustration build up with her for my lack of wisdom. Sometimes I think we just get so worn down, we forget to problem-solve or seek good help. In my case, all of the above.
Another of our kiddos continues to have a short fuse with her sister. I have let it go on and on and on, growing in frustration with her. Crying and complaining to Mike about not knowing how to help the situation. And then I realized, we keep allowing this to go on and on by only fussing at her about her behavior. We keep allowing our anger towards her to grow and grow because we aren't setting clear boundaries and following through with them.
So I've said to her, when you choose to be mean, your T.V. /electronics privileges are gone. (That's what she loves the most.) Which means I have to stay alert and aware and ready to follow through with the consequences. So far, it's helping.
I need to be upset with the behavior, not the person.
I can think of so many times in my life I have failed to set boundaries with love. Rather than honestly saying, I love you so much, but I need you to stop doing X,Y, or Z when you are with me, or I love you so much, but I need you to start doing X, Y or Z, I have built walls up against people that I should not have. I want to be a pleaser. I want to be liked. I want to be loved. I don't like passing out consequences to my kids or setting boundaries with people. I hate saying NO. Because I struggle with the sin of PRIDE, I don't like revealing my weaknesses, so I keep my feelings inside and let bitterness grow and grow until relationships feel broken. I should just humble myself and ask for help or set boundaries, rather than being upset with people for not reading my mind!
As a mom, how many times have I let my kids sit and watch TV without asking them for help, yet being mad becuase NO one took the initiative to say, "Hey, mom, would you like some help?" Why not simply say, "We are going to clean the kitchen together and then we can all enjoy some free time?" My life feels so much calmer and more peaceful when I simply ask for help. Set boundaries. Or Say No.
Every time I fail to set boundaries, I am not only hurting myself, but the people around me. It is building a wall of anger and resentment.
I want to raise my kids to learn to say NO to things that go against their values and beliefs. I want them to be able to accept other people's NO's for their values and beliefs.
We had a friend over not long ago that said she couldn't watch a certain show. A show that my kiddos have watched. I have to say to my kids, We have to respect her wishes. Her family's wishes. We have to love her enough to accept her boundaries. We can do other things together while she's here. Play other games together. Watch something that is acceptable to everyone, but accept people's boundaries when they are brave enough to share them. (It takes a lot of guts for a small kid to say, "My mom doesn't let me watch that show." I LOVE her ability to use her voice to stand up for what she and her family believes in!)
Our boy got new undies for Christmas. I got him what I was sure he'd just love, but of course, "they're too small and too itchy!!!" He told me "No!" He wasn't wearing them. I told him that was fine, and to find another pair that he would like to wear. God knows I can't stand tight and itchy either.
This is where motherhood can be such a struggle for me. I want to teach them to stand up for themselves. I don't want kiddos who go along with whatever everyone else is doing so that they'll feel like they fit in or are loved. But am I willing to accept their "No"? To let them create their own boundaries?(I hate my hair in braids. Boxer briefs are not my style. Too tight and too itchy! ) Or am I training them that if they don't do everything the way I want them to do it that they aren't accepted/loved by me? I want them to know unconditional love. I love you when you wear what I want you to wear, and I want you to feel loved when you are brave enough to say NO! that just is not working out for me. I don't want them to feel like they are loved based on circumstances. Based on being a pleaser. I most certainly need my girls and boy to be able to tell people NO. And with firm conviction.
I hope this isn't confused with my last post about Loving others well. I like to teach my kiddos through scenarios. This is one that we talked through at dinner....
"If you are playing at a friend's house and the friend really wants to play basketball and basketball is not your idea of fun, you could say, sure, I'll play with you for a bit and then we can do something I would enjoy, maybe riding bikes. If the same friend said, Hey! Wanna smoke together? Or have alcohol together? You'd have to be BRAVE and say NO! Even if it meant that they didn't like you anymore! Even if you felt embarrassed for saying NO. You NEVER have to go against your own beliefs or values to make someone else happy. Saying No can save you so much pain. Grief. Heartache. It can save the other person too."
So, while I say, LOVE others well, it is also extremely important to love yourself as well. Know your limits. Set your boundaries. Have consequences for your kids when they cross the line. When we allow people to step all over our boundaries, it is hurtful to everyone. We build up a mound of resentment and anger and when that's all we've got going on on the inside, that is all that is going to spew out to the people that we love.
Do you struggle with boundaries too? In the most gentle and loving way, let your boundaries be known. Not in the heat of the moment, but long before you feel like you'll explode. Start with one person. One kiddo even. Forgive past boundary crossings. Set clear limits in advance and start new. Be gentle with others while they are learning.
Speaking of boundaries, I realize that this very blog I write could be stepping on boundary lines. If blogs about faith aren't for you, please do not in any way feel obligated to read. I say that with nothing but LOVE and RESPECT. I purposefully stay away from writing, shows, media that upset me or that I cannot handle. Anything that causes me more harm than good, I am OUT! I am learning to set boundaries for myself. My goal is to love my family well, and getting my panties in a wad over things that I don't enjoy, believe in, or care about is no good for me or the people who I share a home and life with.
My goal is to share my struggles and how I am learning. I share them because I am certain other people are struggling with the exact same things. But we all have free-will with our time and I urge everyone to spend their time on things that fill them up and make them better, more loving human beings.