Excerpted from the book Boundaries With Kids by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend
It’s scary how our kids can sense when we are weak and ready
to give in to them. Many a parent can identify with the smart adolescent who
begs, pleads, argues, and rationalizes for hours in order to get out of some
responsibility. Friends of mine said their son regularly argued for forty-five
minutes about taking out the trash’a ten-minute job! He didn’t mind losing the
time so long as he didn’t have to do the task.
Kids work us and work us and work us. They don’t give up
easily. And the later you start serious boundary training, the more
energetically your children will resist. It’s hard to give up playing God when
you’ve been doing it a long time. We empathize with parents who figure, ‘Oh
well, I’ll give in this time and give them the toy (money, night out, treat).
It’s not worth the fight.’ And that may be true on some occasions. But each
time you let them neglect responsibilities, the child’s ability to be a
self-controlled person is eroded.
If you notice your child wearing you down, it might mean a
couple of things.
First, you may be in a state of deprivation, either because
you are isolated from supportive relationships or your lack time to yourself.
We can’t keep boundaries in a vacuum. Get into regular, helpful relationships,
or arrange for some time for yourself to fill up your tank. Remember that
parenting is a temporary job, not an identity. Kids with parents who have a
life learn both that they aren’t the center of the universe and that they can
be free to pursue their own dreams.
Second, you may have trained your child to go just so far
and you’ll give in. As a good friend told me, ‘The trick to parenting is to
hold onto your limit one more time than your children hold onto the demand.
That’s all you need’one more.’ You need cheerleader friends who will help you
hold that line a couple thousand times. The good news is, as you do, children
understand that Mom and/or Dad really means it this time, and they begin to
deescalate their efforts.
Remember, you can’t use what you don’t have. Don’t just say
boundaries to your child. Implement boundaries. Without boundaries,
your child will grow up out of control and will try to control others. In fact,
an accurate description of children is that they are little people who lack
control of themselves while attempting to control everyone around them. They do
not want to take control of themselves to adapt to the requirements of Mom and
Dad; they want Mom and Dad to change the requirements!
If you’re feeling like a worn down parent,
you’re not alone. For more on this subject see Boundaries With Kids by
Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend.