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Posts tagged ‘setting boundaries’

Q&A: Can I Have Good Boundaries And Be Compassionate?

SOURCE:  Leslie Vernick

Today’s Question: Where is the line between understanding and having compassion for your emotionally abusive spouse and protecting your own healthy emotional boundaries and beginning the healing process?

Answer: This is an excellent question. People usually fall in one of two categories. On the one side, you have so much compassion and empathy for someone that you have no boundaries. Instead, you enable and/or excuse destructive and damaging behavior that’s directed towards you and continue to suffer believing that God calls you to do just that. You say to yourself, he came from an abusive childhood, therefore you allow him to mistreat you because he was mistreated himself.

But would you think that same way with a two-year-old? Yes, you have compassion that your child is tired. He didn’t get his nap. He doesn’t feel well. But he bites you or kicks you or hits his baby sister. Do you allow it and make excuses for his behavior because you feel bad for him? I hope not. You can have compassion with firm boundaries. “I know you’re tired, or don’t feel well, but hitting mommy or your sister is not allowed and if you don’t stop, you will have a time out.”

When we don’t couple firm boundaries with our natural compassion our children grow up under a lie. The lie is, “I’m allowed to behave poorly when I feel bad or I’m unhappy, hurt, or angry.” Those lies underlie entitlement thinking. The belief that says everyone and everything should revolve around meeting my needs, feelings, wants, and desires and when they don’t, watch out. You will have a price to pay.

The opposite mistake you may fall into is hard-heartedness. You’re done. You feel only disgust, contempt, and hatred towards your abuser. There is zero compassion for his or her struggle or any pity for the sad human being he or she has become. We may start to retaliate, call him names, turn away in disgust, and sometimes in our own anger, we turn into someone we don’t like very much.

Neither place is Biblical or healthy. God calls us to love even our enemy. But that doesn’t mean God would expect you not to have any boundaries with an enemy. Precisely because Jesus uses the word “enemy” and not “stranger” he knows that an enemy is dangerous and has caused you harm in the past.

Loving your enemy isn’t a command to change an enemy into a friend. Its goal is to help you not be filled with hatred towards your enemy which would turn you into someone just like your enemy.

So your question of what exactly does it look like won’t be the same for everyone because everyone’s situation is a little different. However, to accomplish both goals, means you have to learn to walk in and stay in CORE Strength.

Two of the steps in CORE are the R step and the E step. The R step means you will be responsible for yourself and respectful towards your spouse without dishonoring yourself. It’s your job to steward your own physical, emotional, spiritual, sexual and financial well-being.

This is your Biblical responsibility as an adult. So often we don’t fully mature and instead rely on others to do our thinking for us, make our decisions, take care of us or rescue us from our unhappiness or problems. This is not the posture of a healthy or godly woman (or man).

It’s now time to stop focusing on your marriage or your man and spend time on your own healing and growth so that you can become the woman God called you to become. This requires you to detach yourself from NEEDING your spouse to love you, take care of you, validate your choices, or meet your needs.

That doesn’t mean you don’t have needs, but right now you will learn to take responsibility for your own needs. If your spouse chooses not to voluntarily meet those needs, you will detach yourself from begging, pleading, threatening or feeling victimized because he refuses or he can’t. As you do this you will grow to trust God in a deeper way with what you need right now. You can be kind while not demanding he do or change anything. If you aren’t able to detach safely while living together, then separation might need to take place.

But detaching doesn’t mean disregarding someone else or being cruel towards him (or her). That would not be of God and we forfeit the E step of CORE, which states: I will be empathic and compassionate without enabling destructive behaviors to continue.

If your spouse and you can live together in a compassionate, respectful way, while you both do your own growth and healing, it may be possible to live together. This would require you both to be able to commit to being responsible to mutually care for the house, the children and the finances without power plays or abusive behavior. However, by your question, it sounds like your husband is not as committed to his growth as you are to yours. Therefore his destructive behaviors continue while you are working on getting healthier.

You haven’t described what kinds of abusive behaviors he engages in, nor have you gone into details about the impact they have had on you. Not every person is the same, not everyone has the same threshold for pain or ability to handle toxic people.

This is where the church makes some crucial mistakes in their advice to victims of abuse. “If name calling wouldn’t hurt me, it shouldn’t hurt you.” Or, “There is something flawed about you if this bothers you, you’re too sensitive.” Or “That’s not abusive, if I don’t see it as abusive.”

But what one person can handle, perhaps another person cannot. For example, if you are highly sensitive to smoke, you may have a boundary that says, “I can’t drive with you if you smoke in the car.” If your husband refuses to honor that boundary, you can have compassion on his addiction, but you still may choose not to get in his car or let him in yours if he refused to respect your right to steward your health. If he continued to smoke in the house and it impacted your health, you may have to live elsewhere. Not because you didn’t have compassion on his addiction, but because you are responsible to steward your health, and if chooses not to care about your health, you must.

In the above example, I would hope a church leader would talk to her husband for being disrespectful towards his wife and the effect his smoking has on her. Sadly, with emotional abuse, it’s often the woman or abused who gets chastised because somehow she (or he) is supposed to be able to “take it” without any thought to the consequences to their body, soul, or spirit.

So you can have compassion and have firm boundaries at the same time. Even with someone who is brain injured and dangerous because he or she isn’t thinking properly. Of course, you would have tons of compassion for the injury he or she suffered and the impact on their thinking and personality. But if they were coming at you with a knife, or setting the house on fire, or doing other dangerous and destructive things to you or your children, it may not be possible to live in the same house.

How to handle those who get angry at your boundaries

SOURCE:  Dr. Henry Cloud

When you establish a new boundary with someone, the most common form of resistance is anger. People who get angry at others for setting boundaries have a character problem. Self-centered, they think the world exists for them and their comfort. They see others as extensions of themselves.

I’m going to give you six steps to consider when someone responds to your boundaries with anger:

1. Realize that the person who is angry at you for setting boundaries is the one with the problem.

2. View anger realistically. Anger is only a feeling inside the other person. It cannot “get inside” you unless you allow it. Let the anger be in the other person.

3. 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.

4. Make sure you have your support system in place. If you are going to set some limits with a person who has controlled you with anger, talk to the people in your support system first and make a plan. Know what you will say. Anticipate what the angry person will say, and plan your response.

5. Do not allow the angry person to get you angry. Keep a loving stance while “speaking the truth in love.” If we have boundaries, we will be separate enough to love.

6. Be prepared to use physical distance and other limits that enforce consequences. One woman’s life was changed when she realized that she could say, “I will not allow myself to be yelled at. I will go into the other room until you decide you can talk about this without attacking me. When you can do that, I will talk to you.”

If you keep your boundaries, those who are angry at you will have to learn self-control for the first time, instead of “other control,” which has been destructive to them anyway. When they no longer have control over you, they will find a different way to relate.

Setting Limits on Manipulative or Narcissistic Behavior

SOURCE:  Dr. Henry Cloud

In the alcoholic home, if a spouse chooses not to limit her drinking, this is their responsibility. However, other family members can set limits on how they will be affected by it. If an alcoholic continues to drink, the other spouse can only limit themselves, not the other person. They can say, “I will limit my exposure to your behavior. If you continue to drink, the children and I will move out until you get sober.” You can’t stop your spouse from drinking, but you can stop yourself from being affected by it.

I realize this is one example, and there are many different situations and outcomes that affect this situation, but I want you to know that you still have control of the decisions and choices that you make for yourself. And making those decisions involves myriad details.

If we can’t set limits on ourselves, however, we need to enlist the aid of others. This is still taking responsibility. If we call the police and ask them to help limit our exposure, we are taking responsibility. If we call a friend every time we feel out of control in some area and ask them to counsel with us, we are taking responsibility for our own lack of limits. This tactic has worked for people with compulsive behaviors for years. They find themselves without limits, so they take responsibility for getting help in setting them.

Our limits are our fence around our property line. They define for us what we will allow and what we will not allow into our yard. The fence around our yard has an important function: it keeps the good things in, and the bad things out. Every one of us has different limits in different areas, and we must take responsibility for those individually. Here are some acceptable limits to set:

I will no longer allow myself to be with you when you are drunk. If you choose to drink, I will leave until you stop.

I will no longer let you undermine me. I will leave until you can treat me with respect and courtesy.

I will no longer be yelled at. I will not correspond with you until we can have an amicable conversation.

I will not let your narcissistic behavior affect me. I will create distance between us and choose not to respond to you until you show empathy.

I will no longer let you control me. I will say no when I want, even if you don’t like it. And I have support from my friends and family to back me up.

These examples illustrate ways of establishing one’s limits on what one will allow and what one will not. Establishing limits is essential in every relationship and is the basis for mutual respect and love. This does not mean that we will not forgive, or not continue to love and work on conflict. It does mean that we will require responsible behavior on the other’s part, for only then can the conflict be worked through.

Love Shouldn’t Be Withdrawn Because You Say No

SOURCE:  Dr. Henry Cloud/Dr. John Townsend

“Every time I disagree with my mother, even on little things, I feel this terrible sense that she’s not there anymore,” mused Brandy over coffee with her friend Whitney. “It’s like she’s hurt and withdrawn, and I can’t get her back. It’s really a horrible feeling to think you’ve lost someone you love.”

Let’s be honest. None of us enjoys being told no. It’s difficult to accept another person’s refusal to give support, to be intimate, or to forgive. Yet good relationships are built on the freedom to refuse and confront.

Good relationships are built on appropriate no’s. Even when we’re children, young or old, we need to know our boundaries will be honored. It is crucial that our disagreements, our practicing of saying no, and our experimentation will not result in a withdrawal of love.

When parents pull away in hurt, disappointment, or passive rage, they are sending this message to their child: You’re lovable when you behave. You aren’t lovable when you don’t behave. A child translates that message something like this: When I’m good, I am loved. When I’m bad, I am cut off.

In essence, parents who pull away from their child, whether young or old, practice emotional blackmail. The child can either pretend to not disagree and keep the relationship, or he can continue to separate and lose his most important relationship in the world. Thus, he will most likely keep quiet.

Children whose parents withdraw when they start setting limits learn to accentuate and develop their compliant, loving, sensitive parts. At the same time, they learn to fear, distrust, and hate their aggressive, truth-telling, and separate parts. If someone they love pulls away when they become angry, cantankerous, or experimental, children learn to hide these parts of themselves.

Parents who tell their children, “It hurts us when you’re angry” make the child responsible for the emotional health of the parent. In effect, the child has just been made the parent of the parent — sometimes at two or three years old. It’s far, far better to say, “I know you’re angry, but you still can’t have that toy.” And then to take your hurt feelings to a spouse, or friend.

By nature, children are omnipotent. They live in a world where the sun shines because they were good, and it rains because they were naughty. Children will give up this omnipotence gradually over time, as they learn that needs and events besides theirs are important. But during the early years, this omnipotence plays right into boundary injury. When children feel parents withdrawing, they readily believe that they are responsible for Mom and Dad’s feelings. That’s what omnipotent means: “I am powerful enough to make Mom and Dad pull away. I’d better watch it.”

A parent’s emotional withdrawal can be subtle: A hurt tone of voice. Long silences for no reason. Or it can be overt: Crying spells. Illness. Yelling. Children of parents like these grow up to be adults who are terrified that setting boundaries will cause severe isolation and abandonment.

Please don’t misunderstand this. Parents setting boundaries with their children is crucial. Children need to know behavioral lines that should not be crossed. They need to suffer age-appropriate consequences for acting out. In fact, when parents do not set and maintain good boundaries with their children, the children suffer another type of boundary injury.

What we’re talking about here isn’t allowing the child free rein. Parents need to stay attached and connected to their children even when they disagree with them. That doesn’t mean they shouldn’t get angry. It means they shouldn’t withdraw.

If Someone is Angry at Your Boundaries, it’s Their Problem, Not Yours

SOURCE:  Dr. Henry Cloud

When you establish a new boundary with someone else, the most common form of resistance one gets is anger. People who get angry at others for setting boundaries have a character problem. Self-centered, they think the world exists for them and their comfort. They see others as extensions of themselves.

When they hear the word “no,” they have the same reaction a two-year-old has when deprived of something: “Bad Mommy!” They feel as though the one who deprives them of their wishes is “bad,” and they become angry. They are not righteously angry at a real offense. Nothing has been done “to them” at all. Someone will not do something “for them.” Their wish is being frustrated, and they get angry because they have not learned to delay gratification or to respect others’ freedom.

The angry person has a character problem. If you reinforce this character problem, it will return tomorrow and the next day in other situations. It is not the situation that’s making the person angry, but the feeling that they are entitled to things from others. They want to control others and, as a result, they have no control over themselves. So, when they lose their wished-for control over someone, they “lose it.” They get angry. Here are six steps to consider when someone responds with anger:

1. Realize that the person who is angry at you for setting boundaries is the one with the problem. If you do not realize this, you may think you have a 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.

2. View anger realistically. Anger is only a feeling inside the other person. It cannot jump across the room and hurt you. It cannot “get inside” you unless you allow it. Staying separate from another’s anger is vitally important. Let the anger be in the other person. He will have to feel his anger to get better. If you either rescue him from it, or take it on yourself, the angry person will not get better and you will be in bondage.

3. 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.

4. Make sure you have your support system in place. If you are going to set some limits with a person who has controlled you with anger, talk to the people in your support system first and make a plan. Know what you will say. Anticipate what the angry person will say, and plan your reaction. You may even want to role-play the situation with your group. Then, make sure your support group will be available to you right after the confrontation. Perhaps some members of your support group can go with you. But certainly you will need them afterward to keep you from crumbling under the pressure.

5. Do not allow the angry person to get you angry. Keep a loving stance while “speaking the truth in love.” When we get caught up in the “eye for eye” mentality of the law, or the “returning evil for evil” mentality of the world, we will be in bondage. If we have boundaries, we will be separate enough to love.

6. Be prepared to use physical distance and other limits that enforce consequences. One woman’s life was changed when she realized that she could say, “I will not allow myself to be yelled at. I will go into the other room until you decide you can talk about this without attacking me. When you can do that, I will talk to you.”

These serious steps do not need to be taken with anger. You can empathize lovingly and stay in the conversation, without giving in or being controlled. “I understand that you are upset that I will not do that for you. I am sorry you feel that way. How can I help?” Just remember that when you empathize, changing your no will not help. Offer other options.

If you keep your boundaries, those who are angry at you will have to learn self-control for the first time, instead of “other control,” which has been destructive to them anyway. When they no longer have control over you, they will find a different way to relate. But, as long as they can control you with their anger, they will not change.

Sometimes, the hard truth is that they will not talk to you anymore, or they will leave the relationship if they can no longer control you. This is a true risk, and when people choose their own ways, you let them go.

How Controlling People Use Guilt and How to Set a Boundary Against it

SOURCE:  Dr. Henry Cloud

No weapon in the arsenal of the controlling person is as strong as the guilt message. It’s likely you even heard one or two before in your life.

Do any of these sound familiar?

“How could you do this to me after all I’ve done for you?”

“It seems like you would care enough about the family to do this one thing for us…”

“You know that if I had it, I would give it to you.”

I could go on and on, but you get the idea. People who say these things are trying to make you feel guilty about your choices. They are trying to make you feel bad about deciding how you will spend your own time and/or resources and about having a life separate from theirs.

Probably everyone is able to some degree to recognize guilt messages when they hear them, but not everyone is strong enough to not succumb to them. Here are a few tips to keep in your back pocket for when these situations arise.

1. Recognize they are guilt messages and are given in an attempt to manipulate and control.

2. Know that guilt messages are really just anger in disguise. The guilt sender is failing to openly admit their anger at you for what you are doing.

3. Guilt messages hide sadness and hurt instead of expressing and owning their true feelings.

4. If guilt works on you, recognize that this is your problem and not theirs. If you continue to blame other people for “making” you feel guilty, they still have power over you.

5. Do not explain or justify. Only guilty children do that. We do not owe guilt senders an explanation for our actions.

6. Be assertive and interpret their message as being about their feelings. For example, “It sounds like you are angry that I chose to …”

The main principle is this: Empathize with what distressed people are feeling, but make it clear that it is their distress. Remember, love and limits are the only clear boundaries. If you react, you have lost ownership of your boundaries.

10 Signs You Might Be In A Codependent Relationship

SOURCE:  /Lifehack Magazine

Codependency.

Many people are not  familiar with the term codependency and are often not aware that they might struggle with it.

Often a term used in recovery circles or counselling sessions, it is not usually talked about or brought up in regular conversations. The actual definition of codependency is excessive emotional or psychological reliance on a partner, typically a partner who requires support due to an illness or addiction.

In some way shape or form, everyone is codependent on another to a certain extent.  Codependency becomes unhealthy when it affects your overall mental health and happiness.

I was a part of two very codependent relationships and did not realise it until I wondered why both of my relationships ended the same way even though they were with two completely different people. After I learned about codependency and examined my motives for why I did certain things in relationships, I was able to overcome many of my codependent habits.

Here are 10 signs you might be in a codependent relationship.

1. You might not feel complete as a person without that relationship

Often times when you are in a codependent relationship and not aware of it, the relationship can be confused as a Twilight version of true love which is actually not healthy at all. Edward and Bella’s relationship is actually the perfect example of a codependent relationship: If you feel like you cannot function without the other person around or that your life would be over if the relationship ended, that is normally a sign of emotional codependence that is often confused with “true love”. A healthy relationship is when two people that are happy and healthy on their own choose to be together because both of their lives are improved when they are together.

2. You feel the other person cannot function without you around

Many times this is true if you are in a relationship where one person caters to another and truly believes they do so much for that person, they would not know what to do without you. I truly believed that in one of my past relationships. When the relationship ended, that person was just fine without me catering to every need or request they had. Human beings in general are pretty self reliant. When involved in a codependent relationship, many times one person in the relationship is using the other to get what they want and the other is truly convinced they are needed or have to stay in the relationship for the other person. If you have ever thought about leaving a relationship but talked yourself out of it because “they won’t know what to do without me, I have to stay” – that is a clear sign of codependency.

3. You do whatever you can to maintain peace in the relationship

This might be where the term “walking on eggshells” came from. If you are changing your actions and reactions to try and maintain peace in a relationship or your household due to another person’s outbursts or anger, this is a sign of codependency. Instead of choosing to set firm boundaries of how another person is allowed to treat you, you are actually repressing yourself as a person to try and avoid another person acting out and causing emotional harm. What is important here is what are your true motives in any given situation. Many victims of physical and emotional abuse live this way and it is probably the worst type of codependency.

4. You feel responsible for the other person’s thoughts or actions

You might feel like another person’s actions are a reflection of you. You might also feel that because they made a negative choice or decision, you are a failure. This is often true of parents and their children or people in dysfunctional relationships. In these types of situations it is important to realise that we are responsible for our own thoughts, actions and reactions and no one else’s. If we ever feel emotionally responsible for the choices someone else is making and it brings us anxiety or worry, that is a clear sign of codependency. I felt this way for a long while until I realised that no matter what I do or say, the other person is going to make their own choices even if they are not healthy ones. My only responsibility with another person’s actions is how I choose to respond and what I am willing to accept in the relationship.

5. You allow their decisions and behaviours to emotionally affect you

This is similar to number 4, yet different. This is typically described as a martyr role. If you continually experience anger, worry, anxiety or guilt from another person’s choices, that is a clear sign of codependency. If you worry about another person’s feelings or emotions because of a situation they are going through, that is codependency. When you allow what another person says or does to emotionally affect you, that is not a healthy relationship. When what another person says or does causes you to act out in anger or your addition, that is codependency. I experienced this many times until I was able to take a step back and realise that I have a choice of how I allow someone else’s words or actions to affect me. Often times when codependency is modelled in childhood and growing up, it is harder to break those habits but it is possible. The first step is focusing on yourself instead of the other person and accepting that you are only responsible for you. It is not our responsibility to own other people’s feelings, emotions or decisions.

6. Your self worth is wrapped up in the relationship

At one time I believed that I was only worth something if I was in a relationship. I was afraid to go somewhere alone for fear of being judged. I believed that I was someone because someone else loved me. I sometimes believed the person I was with was an extension of me. In many ways I had lost my own identity in the relationship and felt almost too emotionally connected to them as well. When you begin to live life for another instead of doing life alongside of someone, codependency can slowly grow and cause an unhealthy balance in the relationship. Once you are perfectly accepting of yourself and who you really are, you can be happy alone or in a relationship. Once you realise that, your self worth begins to grow and relationships begin to improve.

7. You have little or no boundaries with how the other person in the relationship treats you

Sometimes the prospect of being in a relationship where you are not treated the best is still better than being alone. Often times it is easy to stay in a relationship that has turned into a draining one instead of ending the relationship. Many times people are afraid of the unknown or being alone, so they stay.  If you currently deal with any issues like emotional or physical abuse it is time to evaluate and ask yourself if you actually deserve a relationship that is currently causing you harm. We often get in our lives what we allow. If we set hard and direct boundaries with consequences for negative behaviour, we then protect ourselves from further harm and gain the strength to walk away from harmful situations even if it means ending the relationship.

8. You feel that your negative relationship issues are the other person’s fault

This statement is often a hard one to swallow. For true victims of domestic violence, often times the majority is the other person’s fault but we still have the power to stop that behaviour by walking away.  In my relationships, I was not the drug or alcohol abuser so I believed there was nothing wrong with me. I was the victim because that person continued to destroy the relationship because of their actions or addictions. I was a blamer, and I did not want to take responsibility for the part I played in my past negative relationships. I was in a lot of denial about the truth of my past situations. Once I took ownership for the way I acted to every negative situation I was presented with, I was able to slowly change. I eventually realised I had a choice to stay on a roller coaster of addiction with my past partners, or I had the choice to get off. Once I set hard boundaries with the other person as to what I was and was not willing to accept, it became easier. The other person’s refusal to get help or improve their situation ultimately ended the relationship. When I set boundaries it was easier to handle that relationship ending because it was the other person’s choice to choose their addiction over getting help or working on the relationship.

9. You are extremely loyal in the relationship and often remain in harmful situations too long

This is often found in abusive relationships. With abuse, control is a huge factor in the relationship and along with fear or even threats, often the victim stays because they believe their abuser will follow through with those threats. Other times, it is a negative situation or relationship that may not be that severe. It could be a relationship where many years have been invested and they feel stuck or even believe that their life will always be wrapped up in chaos and negativity. The truth is, we have the power to choose how people treat us. If every woman experiencing domestic violence knew that they had to power to say no, true change could happen. When we invest time and energy into a relationship that is not a positive and enriching one, it is time to move on. Leaving the situation does not always have to be the answer if both parties are truly willing to work on the relationship together by tracking and encouraging positive change.

10. You feel it is your responsibility to “fix” everything for them

I was a fixer. If something went wrong or my partner screwed up, I was there to swoop in and cover it all up or at least do my best to try. Some parents who have children wrapped up in addiction have the fixing problem. For a while, I truly believed I had to stay in the relationship to save that person from their addiction or issues. I often believed I had the power to force people to change their bad decisions, but in fact that was all a lie. I cannot fix anyone but myself. Once I realised that I was harming the situation by allowing that person to continue to make bad decisions without having hard consequences, I stopped fixing and stopped allowing them to continue to act out in their addiction with me around. Instead, I took a step back and focused on myself.  Eventually I realised I had no control or power over the situation and I decided that it was time to get out of the chaotic relationship I had chosen to be a part of. The decision was not easy but it was the best one I could make for my emotional health and sanity.

Q&A: How Do I Stop Enabling

SOURCE:  Leslie Vernick

Question: My adult daughter has moved back home after making a mess out of her life. I think I’ve enabled her to be too dependent on me and now she is acting like an angry teenager instead of a responsible adult. What can I do to help her?

Answer: I hear this so often. Well meaning parents have crippled their children by not teaching them how to stand on their own two feet. My definition of a good parent is that you work yourself out of your job. In other words, your kids don’t need you in order to function anymore. With that said, you can’t change your daughter. But you can identify and own your problem.

What is that? You have given too much. You’ve been too nice and that may be one reason she is not taking responsibility for her own life. Unfortunately, this kind of unhealthy relationship fosters a love/hate relationship between you and your child. She loves you and is dependent on you and hates you for always being right and having to “need” you.

To change this dynamic, you will need to figure out why you have been overindulgent with your child for so long. Are you afraid to say no? Are you anxious that if she doesn’t need you, she won’t have a relationship with you? Do you pity her and believe she can’t do it without you? This is an important step so that you don’t revert back to rescuing her when things get hard for her.

Second, you need to evaluate what is in her best interests. I know you love your child but godly love acts in the beloved’s best interests, not just what feels good. I’m sure you didn’t give your child candy for breakfast, lunch and dinner, even if she screamed for it because you know that wasn’t good for her. It is the same principle here. To change things, you will have to say no to her requests for help, not to be mean, but because it is good for her to learn to figure out some things for herself.

Third, you need to let her know how you are changing. I talk about this in section two of my book, The Emotionally Destructive Relationship in detail. But let me give you a sample speak up dialogue that you may want to share with or write to your daughter.

         I love you. You are my child and nothing will ever change my love for you. But I realize now that I haven’t always given you what you needed most. I have given you lots of things, probably too much, but I have not given you the confidence that you can manage your life just fine without me. I fear you have grown too dependent on me to solve your problems, to rescue you from your financial woes, and to provide your living space, when at this age; you should be doing these things on your own.

         I will take responsibility for my part. I now see that by giving in to you, I didn’t help you grow up. I know you are in a tight spot right now and have moved back home but I want you to know that this is only a temporary solution. I expect you to get a job, work hard and save money toward moving out on your own. You will need to pay room and board while you’re here so that you learn that you have to be responsible for your bills and your life.

         I want to have a good relationship with you and we will not have one if I treat you like a child and you behave as one. I want us to respect and care for each other as adults.

If you haven’t done step 1 and 2 first, it will be hard for you to stick with your resolve. Make a plan as to how you will respond when she cries, complains, criticizes you, or doesn’t pay her room and board. Remember, you can’t make her be responsible or mature at this point in her life. That is her job. However, you can create an atmosphere where it is more likely that she will make those choices.

Q&A: Stop Accepting “Non-Apology” Apologies

SOURCE:   Taken from an article by Leslie Vernick

QUESTION:  My husband has had two affairs, he throws things when he’s angry, abandons me for days at a time after an argument and now has just completely detached himself from our family. He also lies about his whereabouts. I want to be the wife God has called me to but I can’t continue this way. My husband always says he is sorry and will change but these behaviors continue to resurface. Please help.

ANSWER: I think the first question you must settle is what kind of wife do you think God wants you to be for your husband? Is it a wife that allows herself to be abused, abandoned, lied to, and cheated on with no consequences?

You say I can’t continue this way. I don’t blame you. No one would want to be married this way. But I think your dilemma is that although you can, with God’s help, be the wife that God wants you to be, that doesn’t guarantee that your husband will become the husband God wants him to be or that you want him to be.

But the question remains, what kind of wife do you think God wants you to be here?

Do you think he wants you to be passive and continue to live with a man who lies to you, cheats on you, leaves you and scares you when he’s angry? Or, might God be calling you to love your husband in such a courageous way that you boldly confront his sinfulness, refuse to accept his excuses, and if he wants to remain married to you, require him to show that he’s repentant and truly wants to change. His words are meaningless. He repeatedly lies. If he wants to be married, it’s time that he take specific and consistent actions steps that demonstrate that he’s serious and willing to work hard to change.

What might that look like?

For starters he needs to get some accountability partners that will help him stay honest, engaged, and sexually faithful. He needs a plan to help him learn how to manage his emotions when he’s angry or hurt so he doesn’t get destructive, deceitful, or disengage for long periods of time. Obviously he hasn’t been able to change these habits by himself so he will need to get professional or competent pastoral help to learn how to deal with his emotions and understand why he does the things he does. These changes do not happen quickly or painlessly, but with God’s help, are possible for the person who is committed and teachable.

I think you fear that if you hold your husband to these necessary changes and he refuses, then what? I’m going to tell you the unvarnished truth. Your relationship is broken. You may stay legally married, you may even still live together but you cannot have a good marriage if your husband will not change.

Hear me. You can make a bad marriage better all by yourself (by not retaliating or repaying evil for evil), but you cannot make a bad marriage a good marriage all by yourself no matter how good a wife you are. 

We only have to read through the book of Jeremiah to see how God longed for Israel to repent, to come to her senses and change, but she would not. God loved Israel, but He could not and would not have a close and intimate relationship with her until she was willing to change her sinful, adulterous, deceitful ways.

God knows what you’re going through. Let him empower you to be the wife he wants you to be and the wife your husband most desperately needs, which might be totally different than you think. You don’t have to live this way anymore.

Are You Caught in the Sandwich Generation?

SOURCE: iMom/Dana Hall McCain

The American population is aging, and this means a rise in the number of adults caught in what researchers call the sandwich generation—those who are caring for aging parents while still caring for their own children. Nurturing loved ones on both ends of your life, all of whom have major needs, is emotionally and physically draining. It can also throw a wrench into your financial planning.

How can you cope with such a heavy load without cracking?

First of all, take comfort in the fact that you’re not alone. Around 1 in 8 Americans age 40 to 60 is caring for an aging family member while raising a child. But you will be forced to make choices about priorities, learn to delegate responsibility, and accept that you won’t be perfect at both jobs every single day. Cutting yourself some slack may be the most important key to preventing burnout while you’re sandwiched in between.

Take a break from volunteering.

We love volunteers! They make every school, church, and community a better place. However, if you’re pulling double duty as a caregiver, you have very little margin in your schedule. Don’t feel guilty about saying no to some or all of the volunteer opportunities that come your way for a season. A time will come when your responsibilities shift again and you’ll be able to give more to the outside world and causes you hold dear.

Train your older children to pitch in.

In the not-too-distant past, it was common for three or more generations of a family to live together as grandparents aged. As a consequence, older children were expected to contribute more fully to the running of the household: caring for younger siblings, helping with chores, and taking more responsibility for their own needs. Even though current culture typically expects less of tweens and teens, they are capable of so much more! Delegate more tasks to them and the whole family will benefit.

Recruit your siblings to help with aging parents.

Many times the care of an older parent falls to one adult child more than the others. Sometimes, it’s simply because the other siblings don’t know what to do. If you find yourself in the role of chief caregiver, talk with your siblings about ways they can contribute to the effort. If they live nearby, it may be hands-on help. If they live further away, it might be by contributing resources toward hiring more professional help. Make sure they’re aware of what the specific needs are and how they can meet them.

Let go of perfectionism.

If you’re in the sandwich years, it might be a good time to lower the bar on some negotiable areas of life. Simplify your holiday routine from decorations to gift-giving. Relax if the house isn’t as tidy as it used to be. Don’t freak out if you gain five pounds. All of these things can be tightened up again when time permits. For now, just roll with it.

Give yourself an outlet.

This may be the hardest of our suggestions, because it requires time—time you likely feel you don’t have. But allowing yourself a bit of alone time regularly to decompress is vital. Prioritize it so that you have that opportunity to recharge your own batteries and enable yourself to serve everyone else.

Communicate clearly with your spouse.

The sandwich season can put a lot of pressure on a marriage. Make a conscious effort to check in with each other frequently to just say, “How are we doing?” It will give each of you the chance to express where you could use more help, and will provide a chance to strategize about how to accomplish the top priorities.

Accept help from friends.

Just like your siblings can help with the parents, your mom friends are often glad to help out with your kids. Take them up on an offer to drive carpool for you when needed or drop your kid at home after sports practice. Every little bit helps!

Marriage: Spitting In Your Spouse’s Soup !!

SOURCE:  Family Life/Dennis & Barbara Rainey

Underground Warfare

Not returning evil for evil or insult for insult, but giving a blessing instead; for you were called for the very purpose that you might inherit a blessing.

1 Peter 3:9

Some couples just don’t seem to know any other way to relate to one another than with digs, comebacks and put-downs. But sometimes, that same bitterness of spirit can show itself in less vocal ways, when one or the other spouse stews underneath and passively retaliates. There’s more than one way to get back at your spouse.

This reminds me of the old story—supposedly true—about some soldiers who were living off base during the Korean War. They hired a local houseboy to do cooking and cleaning and other odd jobs for them, but they also took delight in playing tricks on him—just for meanness.

One morning when the boy got up and put on his slippers, he awkwardly fell forward to the ground—his shoes had been nailed to the floor. One night when he crawled into bed, he found shaving cream under his pillow. But no matter what pranks the soldiers pulled—whether short-sheeting his bed or setting buckets of water over his door—he always appeared to respond without much visible anger. “That’s okay,” he would say.

Finally, the young men realized they’d been inhumane in their treatment of the boy. They went to him and apologized. “We’re sorry for what we’ve been doing to you. It won’t happen again.”

“You no more nail shoes to the floor?” No.

“You no more short-sheet bed? No more shave cream under pillow?” That’s right.

A little smile crept across the boy’s lips. Then he said, “Okay. Then me no more spit in soup.”

There are many, many ways to spit in each other’s soup in marriage.

I am amazed at how quickly my mind can creatively come up with ways to retaliate. The Scriptures tell us that it isn’t wrong to be tempted. But it is wrong to “spit in your spouse’s soup!” In the spirit of 1 Peter 3:9, find a way to give a blessing instead of an insult.

Be honest: When and how have you undercut each other like this? What are your little tricks for getting even? How can you begin to practice “giving a blessing instead”?

Ask the Holy Spirit to help you turn away from hurting your spouse and to help you give your spouse a blessing in the heat of the moment.

Q&A: Boundaries and Consequences

SOURCE:  Leslie Vernick

Question:  I am unsure how to set up boundaries and consequences with my alcoholic, pot-smoking husband.  He thinks neither should be a concern of mine.  He says it doesn’t affect me.  When he has too much to drink, his verbal cocky language, insinuations, and controlling attitude are horrible.

He thinks nothing of drinking 6-10 beers at one time.  He is bi-polar but doesn’t think it is an issue anymore.  He was on lithium years ago for this.  I am so tired of this relationship with him.  I want to do what God wants me to do.  I know that with God He can handle this marital issue.  I just need to release it totally to Him.

Please give me guidance on setting up specific boundaries and consequences.  I have read your book How to Act Right When Your Spouse Acts Wrong, but I need more specific advice in my particular situation.  Thank you.

Answer:  In my book, How to Act Right When Your Spouse Acts Wrong I introduced the idea of the Gift of Consequences as a loving gesture to help wake a spouse up to behaviors or attitudes that were affecting (or destroying) the marriage.  (This particular gift of love often does not feel loving to the one receiving it at the time)

In past blogs and in my other books on destructive relationships and marriage I give many more reasons and examples how not to enable destructive behavior to continue unchallenged by mitigating or removing negative consequences from the destructive person’s life.

Specifically in your situation you need to ask yourself the question how does his behaviors affect you?  For starters you indicate that when he’s drunk or high, he treats you differently.  He’s controlling, cocky and makes remarks that offend you and hurt your feelings.  What would be a natural consequence for someone who treats you that way?

Most healthy people wouldn’t put up with it.  They’d leave the room, leave the conversation, or exit the house for an hour or even for the night.   In other words, one consequence is that your husband looses the pleasure of your presence or company when he’s drinking or high because you don’t like the way he treats you when he’s that way.

Now, the problem for you when you implement this consequence is that perhaps it has no impact on him. In fact, he may prefer you to leave him alone.  This is where it gets tricky.  The consequence we implement we want to also have impact.

So what other consequences might you implement that may get his attention?

Stop cleaning up his messes – cans, ashes, dirty glasses, vomit.  (But you have to live there too so it impacts you too)

Separate your family money if he’s spending large quantities of money on his drinking and drugs and it’s affecting your ability to pay your bills.

Refuse to drive with him if he’s been drinking or smoking pot/ not allowing the children to drive with him

Refuse to lie to the children about his behaviors when they observe him drunk or high.

Refuse to bail him out of jail if he gets pulled over by the police.

Refuse to buy him alcohol or other supplies for his habit.

Refuse to lie or cover up for him to others (work, family, neighbors) for his foolish behavior while drunk or high.

Separate from him until he gets help and stops his abusive behavior.

Plan an intervention with family members to help him see how his problem impacts everyone (he says it doesn’t affect anyone).

Sometimes boundaries and consequences look rather similar.  The boundary you may set ahead of time – such as I am no longer willing to drive with you because I’m afraid when you’re driving and drinking.

A consequence might be, last night you scared me to death the way you were weaving in and out of cars. We almost had an accident. From now on I refuse to drive with you when you’ve been drinking (or smoking).

But bottom line – what keeps you stuck in this relationship is something you can work on. You can’t change him but you can, with God’s help, change you.  You say you want to do what God wants you to do but I do not believe God calls you to sacrifice yourself and your children so that your husband can stay steeped in his foolish behaviors.  So if you lovingly implement consequences – not to scold, shame or punish, but to wake him up, it can be part of God’s plan for his life.

Doing what God wants you to do means that you will also do what you need to do to stay healthy and get wise. It may mean attending Al Anon or Celebrate Recovery or some other support group for people who live with addicts.  It means that you will protect your children from his abusive behavior when he’s intoxicated and if it’s frequent, you may need to consider separating from him until he gets help for his problem.

I think we often think God wants us to always be nice and minimize the ugliness of sin.  We’re not to judge sin because all of us are sinners – you are not less a sinner than your husband is, but when we cover it up or minimize it or think it makes no negative impact on other people, we are deceiving ourselves and not living in the truth.

Your words to your husband – or consequences and boundaries may be hard but need not be harsh.  Do the work you need to so that when you take this step, you do it in love.

Q&A: My Husband is Draining Our Finances With His Addiction. I Don’t Know What to Do.

SOURCE:  Adapted from an article by Leslie Vernick

Question: I need help as to what to do with my marriage. We have been married 25 years and, in that time, I have dealt with my husband being an alcoholic with two DUI’S and then his arrest for prescription fraud.

He stopped drinking, but then put pills in its place. He takes hydrocodone and soma for back problems, but he doesn’t just take the 2 per day as prescribed. He takes a lot more. When he ran out, he started buying more from other people and now also buys Xanax. He tells me that he doesn’t buy anything from other people, but I know he is lying. He writes a check for gas everyday which I know he uses to get cash back to do who knows what with.

Because of all this mess, we filed bankruptcy but still can’t get ahead. We are 3 months behind on house payments and just about 2 months behind on regular utility bills. I’ve dealt with all this for a long time. I have told him what I don’t like about it, but he says that all I do is get on him about everything. I know I do, but after so long of just holding things inside, I let it out on him.

I know I shouldn’t constantly tell him what he is doing wrong, but he has put us in a financial mess, and now I’m not sure what to do about staying married. Please help! I’m lost as to what to do and how to handle things.

I love my husband and want my marriage to work, but he is making it very difficult for me to love as I once did. I have a lot of bitterness, anger and even hatred in my heart for all that has happened. I’m constantly repenting for my feelings and don’t want to feel that way. He says he will take pills for his pain till the day he dies, and that I need to just deal with it. And, after about 13 years of not drinking, he has started to drink again. It’s only a couple a day, but an alcoholic shouldn’t go back to drinking should they? I also recently found a joint in his truck. I flushed it, and he got furious at me. He said it helped relieve his pain and said no one understands the amount of pain he is in. I just don’t know what to do anymore. He keeps spending money like crazy and doesn’t leave enough for me to pay bills.

He spends more money than we have in our checkbook, so then we have to catch up and pay NSF fees. I don’t want to lose my marriage or house, etc., but I have also been doing a lot of praying and soul searching as to whether I want to live the rest of my life like this. Thank you so much for your time and any help you can give me.

Answer: One of the most important things you must do if you want help is first distinguish the difference between your husband’s problem and your problem.

Your husband is an addict and is self-medicating to deal with his pain. That’s his problem, and he’s chosen to go outside the boundaries of his doctor or a pain management specialist to cope with this pain problem. You may have some influence in how he deals with his problem, but whether or not he changes or gets the help he needs will be up to him. You cannot fix or solve his problem as much as you want to or as much as you love him.

However your problem is that you don’t like living this way. You don’t like the financial havoc and chronic deceitfulness you live with every day. You don’t like the anger he displays when you try to express your concerns. You struggle with bitterness, hatred and resentment because of all this chaos. That is your problem.

When you can clarify the difference between his problem (which you apparently have zero influence over right now) and your problem, then you can work on your problem.

First, what do you need to do to get more financial stability? For example, do you work? Do you need to put your paycheck into a separate bank account that he does not have access to? Does he work? If not, where is he getting his access to money to buy drugs and write checks every day? If you are enabling that, you can choose to stop doing that by separating your money and not giving him access to it.

Will that make him angry? Yes, but it will help with your financial problems. However that doesn’t solve the marital problems. His sole focus is on himself right now which is true of anyone who is an addict. He’s not thinking of anything other than getting his drugs. Whether or not he’s in as much pain as he claims, we don’t know. Certainly pain is difficult to live with, and you can have compassion for his struggle with pain. But instead of trying to solve his problems in a healthy way, he is resorting to his own ways.

To let go of resentment and anger involves having compassion for a person who is so lost and desperate that he (or she) would do things that have such detrimental consequences, just to get a high–or get rid of pain–whether it is physical and/or emotional pain. However, being compassionate does not mean you have to cooperate or enable his dysfunction to continue to impact your life in detrimental ways. If you can cut off the funding for his drug use, perhaps that will motivate him to seek appropriate help for his pain as well as his addiction.

To get healthy, you will need to create some distance from him financially, emotionally as well as perhaps physically, so that the consequences of his foolishness don’t keep landing at your feet. He’s had two DUI’s and an arrest for prescription fraud. Now he’s buying drugs on the street. How does he drive with two DUI’S? Does he have a valid driver’s license or is he just driving without one? Why does he have access to a vehicle when he is taking drugs and now drinking alcohol much of the time? Who is paying for the upkeep of the car insurance, gasoline, repairs, etc.? Are you? If so, you must stop. If you can’t stop, you need to get help for yourself to be strong enough to set and keep good boundaries. Otherwise you are enabling him to continue to do what he does.

I’m asking you tough questions not to make you feel bad, but for you to recognize that you do not have to continue being a victim and enabler of your spouse’s foolishness. In the Bible, we learn about Abigail who was married to a surly and foolish man. When he made a bad decision, she overruled it and did the right thing (1 Samuel 25). I understand that for many women it’s hard to stand strong, create boundaries and still stay compassionate. If you’re having trouble doing that, get some help for yourself. Go to Celebrate Recovery, attend Al-Anon meetings or seek a counselor to give you the support you need.

Marriage: Does God Want Me To Suffer?

SOURCE:  Adapted from an article by Leslie Vernick

This week’s topic is one that underlies most Biblical counsel women in destructive marriages receive. It is something that we must understand if we are going to wisely deal with a destructive spouse. It is the issue of suffering

Suffering is universal, and we will all experience it at some point in our lives. Although most of us would never willingly choose suffering, the Bible clearly tells us that it is used by God to help us see him more clearly (1 Peter 4:13), to help us be done with lesser things (1 Peter 4:1-3), as well as to help us mature in our character (Romans 5:3-5).

Over the past weeks, I’ve been deluged with e-mails from women in terribly destructive and abusive marriages, and the common theme in each of their struggles is this question:

Is Christ calling them to suffer by patiently and quietly enduring harsh and abusive treatment within their marriage?

The passage that is usually cited by church leaders to support a “yes” response is found in 1 Peter 2:13-3:22 where Peter writes to believers who face mistreatment for their faith.

There is much to say about this passage and the entire book of 1 Peter has to do with suffering, but I want to focus only on a few points to help us understand what Peter is trying to teach us about suffering especially for women in destructive marriages.

Peter anticipates that the new believers will be persecuted for their faith. Therefore, instead of talking about the normal mutual household duty codes between slaves and their masters and husbands and wives that Paul already covered in Ephesians 5 and Colossians 3, Peter zeros in on where the relationships are not mutual or reciprocal. Peter wants to talk about what Christians should do when the government or slave owner misuses his power or is abusive or when a husband is a non-believer and isn’t following the mutual household duty codes that Paul spoke about such as “husband’s love your wives as Christ loved the church.” To a non-believing husband, those words would hold no weight.

First, Peter is clear that believers should be respectful to all persons, not because the person deserves our respect, but because they are created in God’s image and, for that reason alone, we choose to honor them regardless of their behaviors towards us. Often in destructive marriages, a woman who is regularly verbally battered or emotionally neglected or abused starts to lob some verbal bombs of her own. Instead of learning to handle such mistreatment in a way that honors God, she dishonors herself, her husband and God by her reactions and responses.

Peter strongly cautions us against that kind of behavior and, when we try to keep our mouths shut in the presence of such provocation, we may indeed suffer. In fact, the psalmist talks about his struggle with keeping quiet in Psalm 39 when he says, “I will watch what I do and not sin in what I say. I will hold my tongue when the ungodly are around me. But as I stood there in silence – not even speaking of good things – the turmoil within me grew worse. The more I thought about it, the hotter I got, igniting a fire of words.” (Psalm 39:1-3)

Second, Peter reminds us that God sees our mistreatment and is pleased with us when we bear it without retaliating. Peter encourages us not to pay back evil for evil by reminding us of Jesus who, when reviled, did not revile in return. When he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly (1 Peter 2:22-23). In not retaliating or executing our own revenge, we may suffer, but we can do so knowing God is pleased with us.

Third, Peter says, “For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God.” It’s important that we understand that the good Peter is talking about is a moral good, a doing the right thing kind of good. It may not necessarily feel like good to the other person.

For example, Peter himself suffered for doing good when he was flogged after he refused to stop preaching about Christ even though he’d been told to cease. Peter refused to submit to the authorities (even though he said we’re to submit to them) because in doing so, he would have to stop doing good (Acts 4:19; 5:17-42).

[W]hen a wife stands up for her children who are being verbally abused, refuses to sign a dishonest income tax report or calls 911 when her husband is threatening to harm her or himself, she is honoring God and doing her family good.

She will suffer because it’s unlikely that her husband will view her actions as good and thank her. Instead he will get angry, defensive and retaliate against her for what she’s done, but that’s the kind of suffering Peter is talking about. He’s speaking about suffering for doing good instead of being passive or fearful or doing the wrong thing or nothing at all. Peter is saying that when we do what is right and we get mistreated for it, God sees it and commends us.

Lastly, when Peter writes that unbelieving husbands who refuse to obey the word can be won by the conduct of their wives when they observe their respectful and pure conduct, he’s saying that our actions and non-verbal attitudes are far more influential toward winning our husband over to Jesus than our words are.

He’s right, but I don’t believe Peter’s instructions preclude a wife from respectfully implementing appropriate consequences (her respectful and pure conduct) that hopefully will influence her husband to look at his destructive behaviors differently and repent, coming to Christ in the process.

Counselors and pastors often advise a wife that God calls her to suffer in her marriage while continuing to provide all the privileges and benefits of marriage regardless of how her husband treats her, provides for her or violates their marital vows. This stance only reinforces the delusion of the destructive spouse who believes he can do as he pleases with no consequences. Marriage does not give someone a “get out of jail free” card that entitles a husband to lie, mistreat, ignore, be cruel or crush his wife’s God-given dignity.

To believe otherwise is not to know the heart of God.

The alternative interpretation, that a wife should stay passive and quiet and do nothing to help her spouse see the damage he is causing his family, harms him. It enables him to stay blind to his sin and colludes with his destructive ways which is not good for him, for her or for their family.

When a woman takes these brave steps of implementing consequences, she will still suffer. She may suffer financially as her husband sits in jail because she called the police when he hit her. She may suffer the censure from her church when she separates from him because of his unrepentant use of pornography and verbal abuse. She may suffer with loneliness, retaliation from her spouse, or disapproval from her friends and family for the stance she’s taken.

My colleagues, Drs. Henry Cloud and John Townsend, write in their book, How People Grow:

Sometimes people have difficulty understanding when they should suffer and when they should avoid it.”

A person in a difficult relationship may endure abuse thinking that this is part of the path of suffering when actually this suffering can injure her soul and also help her abuser stay immature.

Peter reminds us, “Let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good.” (1 Peter 4:19)

Parenting By Grace

SOURCE:  Ron Edmondson

Cheryl and I attempted to implement grace parenting in our home. Our boys are now grown, but we are beginning to see some fruit from our methods and our heart is to help others learn from things we did wrong and things we did right. Grace parenting is one thing I believe we did right.

Grace parenting attempts to raise children the way God parents us…by grace. If God leads us by grace, shouldn’t we lead our children by grace? I read in the Scriptures that grace teaches, graces protect, grace encourages, and grace redeems. Oh, the power of grace. (Aren’t you glad we are not under the law…but grace?)

This does not mean that we let our children do whatever they want to do. It doesn’t mean there were no rules in my house. (My boys would say Amen to that.  ) It doesn’t mean we release them to sin, or even that we expect them to sin. The apostle Paul dealt with these same concerns regarding grace living. (Romans 6:1-2) To the contrary, I actually believe grace parenting has led to a stronger walk with the Lord for each of the boys. They are now young men, honoring Christ (and their parents) with their lives.

These are some steps that helped us think through this concept of parenting by grace. Consider them for your own family and see if they are appropriate, recognizing that each child is unique and may require a different approach in some areas.

Here is our parenting model, Parenting by Grace:

Set clear boundaries – Children need to know what is expected of them and what the limits are in the home. They will test these, when they do, enforce the boundaries, but do it with grace. One of these boundaries for us was respect. My boys could speak openly and honestly about anything with us, but I expected them to respect Cheryl and me.

Recognize the individuality of the child – Some children require more structure than others do. Make sure the boundaries set are appropriate for the needs of the child. One of our boys needed more structure than the other boy. His boundaries had to be more defined. He also needed illustrations to help explain to him the boundaries. The other boy just needed a clear destination…a path for him…he would get there in his own way.

Major on the majors, not the minors – There should be some items, which everyone understands are non-negotiable items. We tend to let these be moral or Biblical issues, such as lying, cheating, disrespect, etc. If the issue affects the child’s character, then it is a major issue. These major issues are handled sternly and thoroughly, but still with love. The minor issues, issues, which do not affect the child’s character, are not to be ignored, but they can be handled less severely. This will eliminate much of the “nagging” children often feel parents do.

Consider the heart – We always tried to determine the reasons behind our boy’s actions before deciding on discipline. A pure heart was always treated differently from a rebellious heart. Remember you are trying to mold a character for life. Scripture says that we should monitor and protect the heart above everything else. (Proverbs 4:23) If your child’s heart is pure and wants to do the right thing, instructing them in the way they should go may be better than harsh discipline. If their heart is bent on rebellion that should be handled much stricter.

Give multiple chances and forgive easily – God has given Cheryl and me so many chances. Shouldn’t we do the same for our children…especially if we want to model the heart of God for our children? After punishment is decided upon, make sure the child understands why they are being punished. You may not be able to fully explain at the time, but go back to the child afterwards to make sure you have not broken their spirit or closed their heart to you. They should always know that you love them, that you would never forsake them, even when they have done something wrong. They should never question your commitment to them in your anger. Give love liberally, just as God gives it to us.

If your children are living within the boundaries, then be a “fun” parent – Let them enjoy having a good time with you. We wanted our boys to honestly be able to say they lived in a fun house, while at the same time we wanted to witness their character being molded into the image of Christ. We laughed so much in our house and under this model, there were rarely days where life was no fun in our home, even during some of the most stressful times in our lives as parents.

Our boys quickly learned the concept of grace as they grew in our home. They understood that we were holding them to high standards, but that we would extend to them lots of grace.

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