Tag Archives: Boundaries

Are we going too far with our parenting experts?

I had joined a Facebook group that I will not name that originally recruited some of us parents from another Facebook group I was in for adult children of narcissists. I’ve shared in previous blog posts about my severed relationship with my dad, and as I was healing myself, some of these groups were really helpful to me as I learned how to set boundaries.

The parenting group was sort of a spin off to help parents who were raised by a narcissistic parent raise their own children in a healthy way.

One of the things that can happen when you’re raised by a narcissist, is that you can become a narcissist yourself, or, at the very least, have some narcissistic traits that are hard to overcome. Sometimes it’s because when people are triggered (and honestly who triggers you more than your own kids) they default to the behaviors that were done to them and the cycle of dysfunction continues.

As I look back into my early 20’s I can definitely see where I had some narcissistic traits. However, a different manifestation of being raised by narcissists is that you become a people pleaser. You learn to suppress your own feelings, wants and needs to keep the people around you happy. This was more of what I struggled with as I was coming to terms with the fact that I could no longer allow my dad to be a part of my life.

One of the things I realized I was doing, was feeling personally responsible for my kids and my husband’s feelings. If they had feelings that were negative, I felt like I had failed somehow and found myself caught in this cycle of trying to keep everyone in the family happy, all the time.

Some of the things that were extremely helpful to me in my breakthrough were reading the book Boundaries, and also Boundaries in parenting, and also my reading and understanding of Scripture in guiding me how to be a better wife and parent. I learned it’s not my job to make/keep my loved ones happy and comfortable at all times. In fact, I was really doing them all a disservice. It’s completely normal to experience the wide range of human emotions and I was effectively telling my kids it’s not ok to be sad, angry, frustrated, etc and that I couldn’t handle it when they were.

Well the Facebook parenting group that I left today was geared more towards the first type of parents, those who became narcissistic themselves. That’s all fine and good to help those people, but often these “licensed therapists” would just post out of context memes that sent confusing messages to parents and can’t be applied in all situations.

The example of the one that did it for me was that back talk by children is just their way of expressing their feelings and that we should never shame or discourage their sharing their thoughts and feelings with us. Lots of parents were commenting that it was a bit misleading and I agree and also voiced my own opinions about it.

First, there’s the definition of what back talk is and isn’t. I definitely wouldn’t define back talk as a child just expressing their feelings. Tone, and timing play a huge part in the behavior. To me, back talk is like this:

Child: Can you take me to the mall? I really want to go buy this thing.

Parent: Not today. I’ve got to get xx done and start dinner.

Child: (as soon as they hear the ‘no’ interrupts) FINE! You NEVER do anything I want!

It’s them expressing themselves, sure. And I agree that they should be allowed to express themselves and be heard, but the rude way they interrupt and start ripping into you is disrespectful. And it would be disrespectful if I did it to them. It would be disrespectful if I did it to my husband.

So I used an example that I made up, much like this one, where I said that I the parent would say, “Ok, but why the anger? That doesn’t feel good.”

So this therapist told me that by me saying “that doesn’t feel good” I’m making my child responsible for my feelings. I disagreed and she pointed me to a rule in the group that said you can’t argue with admins. Lol.

This is where I think they take it waaay too far. And why a lot of people don’t like “gentle parenting”.

For one thing, I didn’t say in the example, “you made me feel bad.” I specifically kept it more on the action. “The anger in your tone didn’t feel good.” It’s the truth. And if my husband had snapped at me in a similar way, I would be encouraged to tell him my feelings. It didn’t feel good when you yelled at me.” So why can’t we also express our own feelings to our kids? And further, why are therapists encouraging parents to be emotionally abused by their own children? Especially many parents who grew up the way I did, being a people pleaser who have a hard time setting and holding onto boundaries. We’re just supposed to let our children yell at us any time they don’t get their way because they have a right to express themselves?

It’s right to point out to our kids when they are rude. They are entitled to their feelings of frustration when being told no, and they certainly have a right to express their feelings to me when they don’t like a decision I’ve made. But it’s not ok to interrupt or yell at me that I never do anything they want. I’m the one that is supposed to teach them this. It is perfectly fine for me to point out that their response to me was inappropriate. And also to let them know that it doesn’t feel good to be on the receiving end.

This therapist was completely nit picking my response and this is what some of these parents have been conditioned to do. If you spend any time in any mom groups online you’ll see moms, emotionally worn out because their kids are out of control and they feel guilty about not responding to everything in the perfect way.

Are all my interactions with my kid’s perfect? No way, not even close! I’m sure if a therapist followed me around for 24 hours they could probably find a million things I could have done better. But there are also a whole lot of worse ways that parents can respond. A parent that is regulated and calm and asks their child, “why the anger. That didn’t feel good” is preferable to a parent who screams back at their child, “Don’t you dare back talk to me you ungrateful brat!” It’s important to remember that parents are imperfect people who also get tired, overwhelmed, frustrated, etc.

On a good day, I stay completely calm, don’t let my kids emotions or outbursts get to me and am able to respond in a way that strengthens our relationships while also teaching my kids what’s acceptable and what’s not.

Other days, I’m distracted by maybe some stressful news I’ve heard or I’m overwhelmed or overstimulated because my kids have all been cooped up together and have been arguing and screaming for the last couple hours and I’m simply out of patience and I snap at them. This is ok too because I still can strengthen the relationship by apologizing to them for the things I did wrong and being honest about my own shortcomings.

“You asked me a question and I heard the other two kids fighting and I was short with you. I’m sorry. That couldn’t have felt good. I want you to know that I love you and my short response was not because of you but because I was overwhelmed. Could we try that conversation again?”

Your child sees you as not perfect, and able to apologize and that you care enough about them to make it right. And you’re setting an example for how to apologize and take responsibility.

I’m not perfect and I’m never going to be, but most of the time, I think I’m getting things more right than wrong. I pray over my parenting and I’m always trying to learn more and do better, but I’m not going to feel bad about letting my kids know that something they did or said didn’t feel good. And I’m not going to stay in these toxic groups where disagreements with “the experts” is not allowed while they are allowed to pick apart everything that you say. Not helpful.


cyclone fence in shallow photography

Photo by Travis Saylor on Pexels.com

This is part 3!  Part 1 can be found here and part 2 can be found here.

To recap, once you know you’re in a relationship with an abuser and you’ve realized you need to hold them accountable, the next step is developing some healthy boundaries.

Boundaries are healthy and keep us physically and emotionally safe.

It’s so important to teach children about boundaries from a very young age. They don’t have a ton of property they own but they absolutely own their own bodies and have a right to decide how to use them. Don’t force a child to be affectionate with someone if they don’t want to be. Once your children are old enough to be independent in the bathroom they absolutely have a right to privacy! I’ve heard stories about dads who remove locks from bathroom doors because he doesn’t want to allow his children any privacy! Remember, abuse is all about power and control.

Abusers hate boundaries!

To protect yourself from an abuser you MUST enforce boundaries. They will do everything they can to convince you that you shouldn’t have boundaries or that your boundaries are unfair. This is further proof that you are dealing with an abuser.

I was watching re-runs of the Office last night and in the episode Jim was in Florida for work with some co-workers and his wife Pam was back at home. He befriended a woman but one night she came to his hotel room in a t-shirt and shorts with a story that they were fixing the heat in her room.  She wanted to hang out in his room while she waited. Jim said yes, but his guard went up immediately when she hopped right onto his bed. She continued to test his boundaries by taking a shower in his room, coming out in a robe and then snuggling up close to him under the sheets. That was the last straw and he finally jumped up and told her he was married and that her behavior was unacceptable. Before he finally confronted her we could see him growing increasingly uncomfortable and this is how we know someone is violating our boundaries.  We can feel it!

Other examples of boundary violations include financial “gifts” that people give expecting control in return. It is not a boundary violation for a parent to threaten not to pay college tuition if a kid can’t get his grades up, but it IS a boundary violation to only pay a kids college tuition if they go into the program of the parent’s choosing.

If a kid wants to be a teacher and the parents only will pay for med school, the kid has to decline the money and pay his own way or take out loans to get out from under the abuse.

As an adult, we leave our father and mother and become one with our spouse, therefore starting our own family unit. Your parents do not have a right to make demands of you and your new family that do not align with your values on your time, money or children. You have to say no to financial gifts that come with strings attached.

Back to my story with my abuser; one day he lost his job and arrived home drunk and he and his wife got into an argument and he took off on foot. Once again, many people were very worried about him and tried calling to check on him and he waited until the wee hours of the night before letting anyone know he was ok. I was finally at the point that I could no longer just accept his apology and pretend everything was fine.

I made it clear that I believed he needed to go through an intense, in-house rehab. Of course he had all these excuses for why he couldn’t go.  The truth of it was that he didn’t want to go. He wanted to apologize for getting caught again and then go back to hiding and lying.

When abusers are caught or know they went too far they often go through “compliance” for a bit to try to win you back. In their heart, they KNOW they have no real intention of changing but they know they need to be on their best behavior just long enough to get you to let down your guard again.

My abuser said he was sorry and started going to AA meetings and to a religious counselor with his wife. This is the same old song and dance he had been doing for years and I didn’t believe him. I had no reason to!  If someone is a repeat offender, they absolutely should understand that they have to EARN your trust back.  If they demand you to move on right away, that is PROOF that they are not changing at all.

So I stuck to my boundary. I told him he was not welcome at my house anymore unless he went to rehab or I saw some real changes in his behavior.

So a couple months passed and not spending time with him proved to be very good for me! I was less anxious, sleeping better and felt I was a better mom and wife without him in my space. He texted me one day and immediately my mood darkened. He said he had been sober for 8 weeks now and he was going to counseling and AA meetings, so couldn’t he come visit? That wasn’t my deal. He was trying to get me to break my boundary. I held firm.

So how do you know when someone is really changing? How does the church sometimes hurt instead of help when dealing with abusers?  I’ll cover that next.