I Hate Boundaries

Screen Shot 2014 12 11 at 11.15.36 AM 300x199 I Hate BoundariesAm I the only person that hates limits, expectations and boundaries? I know they are important, but if I was honest with myself, I hate it when others want to place limits on how I believe, think or behave. Sure, it sounds good when counselors tell you to apply boundaries to your kids. After all, you are the boss and applying boundaries to someone else seems appropriate and fair. I sure don’t mind telling those that work for me what I expect and I am quick to stand up for myself when I feel miss understood by my spouse. But it can be hard to embrace boundaries imposed by others. I hate it when bosses reprimand me for being late or highlight poorly done work, or if my spouse expects me to be home and clean when I would rather be out golfing with friends. Very few of us are thankful for these guardrails on our own behavior.

Boundaries are limits, borders or guardrails that are placed around our behaviors. We can place them ourselves or they can be placed by others. When they need to be placed by others, it is often a sign that we are living a risky lifestyle. As adults we often recognize our need to mitigate risk by putting up guardrails. Married guys try not to go out for drinks alone with single women. We try to watch what we eat to avoid future health issues. Boundaries are completely necessary and help us function in society in a healthy way. Teens, however, don’t have the necessary experience to put guardrails up for themselves. They believe that they are capable of handling complete freedom.

If we chafe against boundaries being placed on us as adults and look for ways to negotiate our way through them, we can’t expect our kids to react much differently. After all, we find ways to play golf or be late to work for appropriate reasons in exchange for working harder or staying later on other days. Well, our kids are no different and actually want to find ways to live with the boundaries that we set. Note that I didn’t say ‘within’ the boundaries. They want to live with, or survive, the boundaries that they are experiencing within the home, which means that teens don’t often want to give in too much and are usually only interested in expanding the boundary. But you’ve gotta love them for trying.

So Mom and Dad, recognize the completely normal battle that occurs over maintaining this line. Smile as your teens try to expand their freedoms. Try not to take it personally when they violate your boundaries, but also don’t ignore it and give way. Boundaries provide structure, support and safety in our lives. Evaluate the lines that you have established in the home. As your child gets older, some of these boundaries can and should be expanded while others need to be firmly maintained. Talk with your teen, negotiate, and remember boundaries are there to bump against. Guardrails keep us from careening over the cliff. Don’t remove them in your life or in the lives of your teens.

Sometimes Social Media is not very Social

The Lonely Side of Social Media

As a parent of older teens, I do my best to stay current with today’s social media sites and apps. The best I can manage these days is Twitter and Facebook, which is now, according to my teens, a site for “old people.”   I guess I can’t argue with them when I see my mom posting things to their pages and signing off with, “Love, Grandma.” To be sure, it’s the modern day equivalent to pinching their cheeks in public. Grandmas can somehow get away with it…parents, on the other hand, cannot.

parents at computer 300x169 Sometimes Social Media is not very Social
Sometimes social media is not very social

As I browse through my news feed, I see my friends with younger children post pictures of cute shenanigans or share amusing things their kids say or do. I am not allowed to do that….EVER! Every time I take a picture of my teens, the first words they say are, “You’d better not post that to Facebook!” So, I am left to experience all of the joys, triumphs and failures of raising teens alone. My kids are doing some really cool things, saying things that make me laugh out loud and daily impressing me with their ability to navigate tough waters. But I cannot share this and I am coming to see why. They are people who have rights to their own lives. Of course, it was nice when they were little and we could choose their clothes, their food and sometimes even their friends. Not so anymore, and that’s a good place to be. But, it’s a lonely place to be. So, Moms and Dads, take heart in knowing that there is a huge population of us parents of older teens out there who feel the same way. You are not alone! I encourage you to treasure these days as much as you did when they were little by keeping a private ‘Facebook’ in a journal that you can give them someday when they need to be celebrated.

Snow Plow Parenting

super mom med 300x199 Snow Plow ParentingThere is a new buzzword in parenting circles today…the ‘snow plow parent.’ These well intentioned moms and dads are closely related to their twins, the helicopters. Just like a snowplow, they go ahead of their kids and move any obstacles out the way so that the kids have a smooth path in which to move forward. The problem, as you can guess, is that it robs kids of the sense of accomplishment and value they receive from solving problems, learning to handle loss and forging their own paths.

As a parent who ‘snowplows’ at times, I can tell you that the tricky part is when your child battles with depression, anxiety, a learning disability, a physical limitation or handles stress by turning to substances. As a parent of a struggling teen, I naturally want to minimize obstacles out of fear that if our child struggles, he might turn even more towards his dangerous coping behavior and his problems will only deepen. This cycle of rescuing in order to protect our children from themselves can feel like a death spiral.  And I know I am not alone because many parents call each day, sharing a similar story of feeling out of control and seeing that their teen is “spiraling out of control.” It is so enticing for us as parents to get overly involved in the situation when we feel like our child is behaving out of control. Most parents have a hard time sitting back and watching their kids work through adversity on their own, but it’s often the only way for children to learn to trust themselves and gain the confidence needed to navigate through adolescence and adulthood. If we remove the obstacles for them, they feel paralyzed to handle any hardships that will inevitably come once they leave home.

Could it be that our attempts to help our kids have perhaps caused some of those issues in the first place because we have unwittingly given them the message that they are not capable people and must have our help with everything? There is no guilt here…our children know that we have good intentions. They do. But I have come to recognize my own need to show my kids that I trust them to be capable, strong, and creative in their problem solving. Even when I see them struggling and using dangerous coping mechanisms such as cutting, drugs, sex, etc., I am called to let go. My role as a parent is not to drive the snowplow but to simply pick up a shovel and work alongside my teen.

 

Call us and learn more about Snow Plow Parenting
800 584 5005

Why is it so hard to let go of our kids?

Letting go of fear and responsibility for your teen will be part of the therapeutic process that you will go through while in Shelterwood.  Take a moment to read through some of the common internal dialogues that we often go through as parents when we have a fear of change.

1. Fear of the unknown

Parent:  If I can’t change my child’s behavior, how can someone else?  Will Shelterwood staff be manipulated?  What if he gets sick or she is mistreated?  Who else is going to be in the program?

Teen:  Can I contact my friends?  Do my parents care about me?  Whom can I trust?  Only losers are sent to residential group homes.

We are most at ease when we are completely familiar with our surroundings and sure of what the future holds for us.

2. Fear of failure

Parent: What if I spend all of this money and they don’t change?

Teen:  What if I can’t change?  Is this who I really am?

People expect to get everything right the first time instead of taking time to work things out and getting them right at some time.

3. Fear of commitment

Parent:  What if we give everything to this process and our child remains angry and distant?

Teen:  I don’t feel confident that I can achieve what I really want in life.  If I focus on what I want and then fail where does that leave me?  I think I might be better off not trying.  I don’t want to feel trapped by high expectations and responsibility.

People should be honest with themselves and commit to a few simple goals.

4. Fear of disapproval

Parent:  What if my teen never forgives me for this decision?  What will my parents, friends, siblings think of my parenting if I need to place my teen in a program?

Teen: What if I commit myself to my goals and my parents still disapprove? If I change, are my friends going to dislike me?

You will learn very quickly who your false friends are and who is truly on the side of your self-esteem.

Reestablish Integrity in your Home

Integrity is something that we want others to have, but struggle to find it within ourselves.  Society is built on the ‘handshake’ principle of integrity.  Your word is supposed to be your bond.  Corporate missions declare it and pastors are assumed to have it.  But what is integrity and how do we develop it?

Look up integrity online and you find a multitude of pithy sayings, but they all seem to center on the idea that integrity is shown when our behavior, private and public, lives up to our beliefs and words.

We encourage you to embrace three critical practices in your life to reestablish integrity

1.  Plant some guardrails in your life

Screen Shot 2014 12 11 at 11.15.36 AM 300x199 Reestablish Integrity in your HomeWe put up literal guardrails for our kids early in life so they won’t fall out of bed.  We follow building codes and erect railings so that we don’t walk off of our deck or drive off the road.  Our lives are full of guardrails to protect us from physical miss-steps.   

But there are also unseen guardrails that you erect for yourself.   Personal boundaries that act as acceptable limits to your behavior.

Your standard of behavior is a conscious choice.  You set the line; you set where the rail is.  We all do this whether there are laws in place or not.  We decide what is appropriate to read or watch.   We decide what is acceptable regarding lying and cheating.   

We even set standards around what is an appropriate diet and how frequently we will exercise.  And when we drive through a barrier and over indulge, we typically feel bad and recommit to behaving in accordance with our beliefs.

Where have you set up our guardrail when it comes to completing your taxes?  Billing for jobs you have completed?  Telling stories about your sporting exploits?  Once a guardrail is up in a certain location it rarely moves.  Is your guardrail in a place of safety or are you living in such a way that if you hit your guardrail it will be too late? Has it been planted so far into the danger zone that it is not much good to you?

Are you taking risks in your sexual life, at your job, or with your physical health and no longer living the life that you intended?  If your behavior is no longer lining up with your words or beliefs, it might be time to reset the guardrails in your life.

2.  Becoming Aware of Our Choices

Guardrails should be set up in an area of safety to protect us from danger.  So that when we make a mistake in life and hit the guardrail we are able to carry on.  While hitting the boundary might be frustrating or painful it should not cost us our marriage, our job, or other meaningful relationships with friends, parents, or kids.

Life has a way of sneaking up on us and pretty soon we are middle aged living a life that we never intended.  It is easy to rationalize our behavior, “Every one cheats on their taxes” “Pornography is everywhere it is no big deal”.  We tend to make excuses for our behavior and simply mimic the behavior of what we believe others are doing. Don’t use today’s test for honesty and integrity and believe that, “It’s okay as long as you don’t get caught.”

By spending some time reflecting and becoming conscious of your choices you will be better able to fight the integrity slip and slide.   

3.  Accountability

The final and most critical daily practice for maintaining integrity is through the use of accountability.  Having people in your life that will notice when you are driving dangerously and might add a guardrail or two in your life themselves.  They should be able to ask the tough questions and be insightful enough to redirect your thinking so that you reconsider your choices.

It’s easy to lose focus and get distracted when we are driving down the highway of life.  But it is so much better to have someone asking you the tough questions regularly than to have a guardrail be added too late:  the spouse that needs to check your Internet search history because you have been distant and unavailable in your marital relationship: the boss that needs to do a surprise job evaluation because your work has become sloppy.  These sudden guardrails can be painful as we slam up against them, but they are intended to protect us from getting even further off track.  Having accountability in your life enables and encourages these guardrails.

We benefit from having someone who is looking out for our best interests, one who  will remind us when we are in the rough gravel on the side of the road and heading for the edge.