Being a mom has redeemed my life in so many ways. As my children grow and move forward in life, I am forced to look back on my childhood with ‘parent eyes’, the view is different then. As an adult I can go back into the archives of my own life and see how patterns (healthy and unhealthy) got established and I can empower my children by modelling healthy behavior. It truly can be a redeeming aspect of parenting. With adult eyes we can not only watch over and protect the children God gave us but we can also protect and redeem the children from our past (ourselves.)
It may take years to figure out where your parents or other adult figures in your life went wrong and what you need to do to heal but it is important that you do. Greg and I are very fortunate to have each other and part of the reason I know God put us together is because we help each other heal. His qualities: empathetic, patient, dependable, passionate, kind, courageous ; and my qualities: strong, assertive, loving, considerate, passionate, forgiving are the gifts God has given us to use with each other. We have helped each other recognize unhealthy family patterns and in the process heal a lot of the hurt in our lives. It’s SO freeing. Psychologists call it secure attachment. (A great resource is this book: Face to Face by Jesse Gill) Knowing that you can help heal your spouse and break destructive cycles in your life is very thrilling- life becomes new!
All parents fail us in some way or another and we know that we will make mistakes as parents too. I think the difference between a toxic parent and a non toxic parent is the boundary aspect, specifically- being willing to respect boundaries. Teaching your kids how to set boundaries will show them not only how to respect others but also themselves as well.
Setting clear personal boundaries is the key to ensuring relationships are mutually respectful, supportive and caring. Boundaries are a measure of self-esteem. They set the limits for acceptable behavior from those around you, determining whether they feel able to put you down, make fun, or take advantage of your good nature.
If you often are made uncomfortable by others’ treatment of you, it may be time to reset these boundaries to a more secure level. Weak boundaries leave you vulnerable and likely to be taken for granted or even damaged by others. On the other hand, a healthy self-respect will produce boundaries which show you deserve to be treated well. They also will protect you from exploitative relationships and help you avoid getting too close to people who don’t have your best interests at heart.
Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend. Boundaries: When To Say Yes, When To Say No, To Take Control of Your Life. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 2004.
Understanding why setting boundaries make people angry and what to do:
The first thing you need to learn is that the person who is angry at you for setting boundaries is the one with the problem…Maintaining your boundaries is good for other people; it will help them learn what their families of origin did not teach them: to respect other people.
Do not let anger be a cue for you to do something. People without boundaries respond automatically to the anger of others. They rescue, seek approval, or get angry themselves. There is great power in inactivity. Do not let an out-of-control person be the cue for you to change your course. Just allow him to be angry and decide for yourself what you need to do.”
God gives us an example
We confuse people with God. What is healthy with people is unhealthy with God. What is unhealthy with people is healthy with God. Healthy human relationships: “I care for you, but I don’t need you to survive.” Healthy relationship with God: “I need you desperately.” Unhealthy human relationship: “I need you desperately.” Unhealthy relationship with God: “I care for you, but I don’t need you to survive.”
Sometimes, the hard truth is that when you set boundaries you risk the fact that some people will not talk to you anymore, or they will leave the relationship if they can’t control you anymore. This is a true risk. God does this every day. He says He will only do things the right way and that He will not participate in evil. And when people choose their own ways, He lets them go. Sometimes we have to do the same. Emotional manipulators will back off and in their place sustainable, loving relationships will thrive.