One of the places where it is hardest to set boundaries is with your family! Trust me, I know, and I have a very loving, wonderful family. This includes in your marriage or partnership, with your parents and siblings, extended family, and gasp…your own children. Here are two ways that I have attempted to set boundaries and what has happened. We’ll call these case studies. (Are there case studies on blog posts? If not, here’s a first!)
Case Study 1: Adult Family Members I tell a member of my immediate family NOT to talk about certain things in front of a person we all commonly know. The reason for this is because it will lead to trouble for someone else we both love very much. I know, I know what you’re thinking. Why talk about the subject at all if I’m worried? My answer to this question is two-fold: I have to trust people to listen to me when I set boundaries, AND there are some subjects and situations I have to talk about, and the only people who truly understand are immediate family members. So what happened after I set the boundary and shared the information?
At an event, I actually hear the family member I confided in talking about the subject to the person I didn’t want to know. Ugh.
Now what do I do?
I set a boundary, and it was crossed. This family member passionately believed the right thing was being done, but it was still a boundary that I made that was not respected. I could have jumped up right then and there and said, “Stop! I told you not to say anything!” (I didn’t do this, although I wanted to.) What I did was later, when I felt calm: I addressed what happened and explained again why it is important to not talk about the subject, but my family member didn’t apologize.
So…now I have a new boundary. If I don’t want someone to know, I don’t tell this person. Do I feel upset? A little, but I also feel proud of myself for creating a boundary, addressing it, and figuring out that in this circumstance, this family member’s own feelings and passions overpower my boundary.
Case Study 2: Our Kids Kids are constantly pushing boundaries and rules–according to child experts, this is normal. Maybe this is true, but I want to raise a kid who respects other people’s boundaries. This example is going to seem silly, but it is a harmless example about my daughter I feel okay sharing with the
world 10 people who read this post. Also, I think this kind of thing happens to parents every day of our parenting lives, and it can wear thin on our patience. So stick to your guns, parents!
Her grandma and dad sing to her at night. Her grandpa hums. I read, we say our blessings, and then I snuggle with her. She says: “I want you to sing like Daddy and Grandma.” I say, “I don’t sing.” This is not 100 percent true, of course, I do sing, and I have sang to her before when she was younger or sick. But I absolutely do not want to make this a part of our nighttime routine. I am exhausted by the time she goes to bed, and I don’t want to sing since I don’t enjoy it. I explain this to her and show her how what we do at night works for both of us. And she has people who sing to her on other nights.
Now, my daughter is strong-willed, which will be a great quality WHEN SHE IS OLDER. So, a few times since this singing discussion, she has brought up: “Why can’t you sing?” “I want you to sing.” Tears, silence. I explain it again, in a kind way, and now I am definitely not backing down. I have set a boundary (simple as it may be). Yes, my people pleasing mom side is really fighting me on this one, but this is a lesson–she needs to respect this boundary. We already have a nighttime routine that works, and that we both like and can manage, and I’m not changing it now.
So far, the boundary has stuck. . .
How about you? How do you set boundaries with your family members?