While I am improving, partially due to my new husband who has healthy boundaries and is creating a safe place for me to exercise mine, I have a history which may serve as an illustration for you to check-in with yourself.
I know it’s right to teach children to pick up toys, do chores and hear “no” on occasion to their wants, needs, and whims. I also know that by not setting up structure, expectations, and boundaries, I am not providing emotional security for my loved ones. By not doing the work to be the parent, I am shifting responsibility and insisting that my children become the parent for themselves. If I don’t establish clear edges where they can feel safe inside, then they are never emotionally safe rather, wondering “Can I do this?”, “Is this right?”, “Is this safe?”
Not nagging our children to do hard things is certainly easier than training them. It can free our lives up from complaining and rebellion. The truth is, if I serve my children rather than teach them, I become more of a friend/chore-horse. I rob them of the opportunity to be self-sufficient and respect the needs and boundaries of others. Ultimately by not taking a stand, for the sake of not upsetting another, we are distancing them from us. They begin to join us in having a lack of respect for ourselves.
I have spent many a day not wanting to upset my children by making them do what they didn’t want to do, so I did it myself. Furthermore, many of us know they will likely do the job inefficiently at first, so we are even more tempted to do it ourselves, to receive the certainty that the job is done well.
If you ask me why some of us struggle to put up hard edges, I believe the answer exceeds the confines of parenting.
The truth is people-pleasing has often led me into environments where I have been shown up spineless. Many of us would rather assume more than our share of responsibility, so someone else doesn’t get mad at us. We are often well-liked, but if we reach a place where someone pushes too hard, and we don’t have the ‘stand-up-for-myself’ muscle flexed, we end up hurt. This is illustrated in parenting but can show up in all kinds of relationships.
I have known all along what would be best for my children as far as chores, structure, etc., but knowing what needs to be done and doing it can often be worlds apart. I like the homeostasis of a relationship. I’d rather keep the peace and oblige them as opposed to experience the pain of confrontation. I see the same pattern in my former marriage where I eventually left from emotional abuse.
The message I’m sending others is, “If you don’t like what I’m asking, and you present me with an emotion that makes me uncomfortable, I’ll back away. You can march on as though I don’t even exist. You can count on me to take the fall for you.” We slowly condition those around us to understand they are more valuable than we are.
This attitude can happen with toys in a basement as easily as it happens with adult children in the basement. “You really need to get a job and live on your own, but you act like you don’t like me when I tell you that. Don’t worry I won’t bring it back up. Besides I can technically cover your living expenses until you move on. Sorry to bother you.”
In both scenarios, we are modeling for our kids how to work the system to get what they want, vs. do the hard work and accomplish great things. We are conditioning them to believe their desires are superior to those of others.
This is a boundary issue as much as a self-care issue. I have faced fallout from not illustrating to my children that my time and life have value because I served them endlessly. I have sent them the message that whatever they are doing is more important than whatever I am doing. I have experienced unintentional and painful consequences.
The right thing to do is to stand up in confrontation and believe this message you send: “I value myself enough to have restrictions on my life, my time and my emotions. I don’t care who you are, my child, my mom, dad or partner, I am giving myself some space to grow into the person God is calling me to be. If that means you need something that requires me to abandon myself to accomplish that need for you, too bad.”
By not taking a stand for the precious soul God put into us, we are modeling for our children how to not place value on their own lives as well as our lives. We are depriving them the satisfaction of accomplishment and sending the message: “It is better to use others to do what you don’t want to do.”
One thing I have learned from my new husband is, “Certainly serve your children, for sure! But serve them by teaching them how to be a responsible, respectful, productive adult that won’t still be living in your basement when they are thirty.”
He has modeled for me that parenting is not a popularity contest.
This message resonates with many of you. You see yourself lacking the strength to take a stand when it upsets others. Call me, and we can make that one of your goals in coaching. Nourish your soul and don’t let others trample on it. Environment is an important component of the SEEP Soul Balance model. How are you making certain those in your environment understand the value of the soul God put into you?