By Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend
Are there aspects of your life, relationships, or parenting that feel out of control? You are not alone. As adults, we need to have a clear understanding of creating boundaries in our lives. As parents, it is critical for us to teach our children to create and respond to boundaries for them to grow up as a healthy, responsible, and loving individual. God has given us a model of boundaries in the Bible in the way He deals with us, and the way we are commanded to deal with each other. You can follow this example to implement healthy boundaries with your family, friends, coworkers, and yourself. These boundaries will help you to increase your effectiveness and give you and your children a stronger sense of control over many of life’s hassles. This book is a great resource to help you figure out when to say, “Yes!”, how to say, “No!” in order to take control of your life.
Part One: What Are Boundaries?
A Day in a Boundaryless Life
As the chapter title suggests, the authors take the reader through a day in the life of a woman named Sherrie whose life at work, and with her family is out of control due to her lack of boundaries. Some of the problems many people experience related to a lack of boundaries include clinical psychological symptoms, such as depression, anxiety disorders, eating disorders, addictions, impulsive disorders, guilt problems, shame issues, panic disorders, and marital and relational struggles. An initial look into the Bible shows that God uses boundaries to help us avoid the aforementioned problems.
What Does a Boundary Look Like?
Boundaries define us. We have many different types of boundaries in our lives like skin, words, truth, geographical distance, time, emotional distance, other people, and consequences. We each have many components of our lives that relate to our boundaries like feelings, attitudes and beliefs, behaviors, choices, values, limits, resources & gifts, thoughts, desires, and love. Taking care and responsibility for all of the above to truly care for our souls is done through our work on our boundaries.
Kids who don’t learn to set and keep healthy boundaries in their lives grow up with many problems responding to the world and their responsibilities. “Blocking a child’s ability to say no handicaps that child for life.” Children can fall into several unhealthy behavior patterns like becoming an avoidant (says no to the good), a controller (not respecting others’ boundaries), or a non-responsive (not hearing the needs of others) if they don’t learn and develop boundary setting behavior.
How Boundaries are Developed
Children learn about boundaries or lack of them from their parents or primary caretakers. There is a process that children go through in order to prepare them to recognize that they are loved and supported, but also exist apart from their parents. Problems arise when there is some kind of injury to that process. It is crucial that when there are disagreements within the family, that there is not a withdrawal of love. Parents can also hinder the boundary development process by showing a hostility against boundaries, over-controlling, having a lack of limits, or inconsistent limits. Trauma can also create problems for children attempting to develop these skills. Parents have a responsibility to facilitate the growth and development of healthy boundaries in their children.
Ten Laws of Boundaries
On the path to real love, people need to communicate their boundaries openly. There are 10 laws of boundaries to consider. They are the laws of: sowing and reaping, responsibility, power, respect, motivation, evaluation, proactivity, envy, activity, and exposure. “God wants real relationship with us and wants us to have real relationship with each other. Real relationship means that I am in the light with my boundaries and other aspects of myself that are difficult to communicate.”
Common Boundary Myths
There are common misunderstandings regarding boundaries that run contrary to what the Bible teaches. People think that boundaries might be selfish or a sign of disobedience. People are often afraid of hurting others, being hurt by others, or giving the impression that they are angry if they choose to set boundaries. Fear arises when others set boundaries, people sometimes assume that they will be hurt in those relationships. There is often a sense of guilt or burning bridges when one attempts to begin setting boundaries. Clear counter arguments from the Bible are given to dispel all of these myths.
Part Two: Boundary Conflicts
Boundaries and Your Family
Many families suffer from a lack of boundaries among their members. Steps are given to create a resolution of boundary problems within a family. Once boundaries are created, it is up to the parents to implement, model, and teach healthy boundary use to the children.
Boundaries and Your Friends
Relationships with friends stem from four main types of conflict based on each individual’s method of handling a lack of boundaries. The compliant person, the aggressive controller, the manipulative controller, and the non-responsive person all bring certain struggles to friendship. Healthy boundary setting can work to significantly reduce your frustrations with friends.
Boundaries and Your Spouse
“More marriages fail because of poor boundaries than any other reason.” This chapter investigates the myths related boundaries, and provides guidance on how to apply the laws of boundaries in the marital relationship.
Boundaries and Your Children
The impact of our approach to raising our children with boundaries is the most critical of all. Children’s value development, work ethic, friend choices, school success, marriage partner, and so many other aspects of their lives often have a direct correlation to the boundary development and understanding of boundary needs in your children.
Boundaries and Work
This chapter addresses your happiness at work. Boundaries can help you become happier and more fulfilled at work. Many common workplace problems are explained with suggestions of boundaries that you could put in place to reduce these struggles.
Boundaries and the Digital Age
Raising children in the twenty-first century comes with many extra stressors and needs for boundaries. God wants you to have a full life, and having clear boundaries with technology will help you and your children to enjoy life. Choosing freedom and avoiding the destruction that can come from a lack of boundaries with your technology is a brave and smart choice to make.
Boundaries and Yourself
Avoid having the out of control soul, by having clear boundaries with yourself regarding food, money, time, task completion, words, sexuality, and substance abuse. Learn how to establish boundaries with yourself.
Boundaries and God
Knowing the boundaries that God has with us, is helpful for us to become the best we can be. These boundaries enable us to “negotiate life, fulfilling our responsibilities and requirements.” We find our strength in knowing our role and work in relation to God’s role and work. “If we do our work, and God does his, we will find strength in a relationship with our Creator.
Part Three: Developing Healthy Boundaries
Resistance to Boundaries
As you begin to set boundaries in your life, you may face outside resistance. There may be angry reactions, guilt messages, consequences & countermoves, physical resistance, pain of others, blamers, and real needs of others. You may also face internal resistance like your own needs, unresolved grief and loss may surface. Fear or anger, fear of abandonment, and fear of the unknown are very common. There also may be unforgiveness, an external focus, and/or guilt as you face these changes in your life. Recognizing the barriers to initiating your healthy boundary choices will make it easier to press through them to the full life that God has for you.
How to Measure Success with Boundaries
You will notice changes in the way you relate to the people around you as you begin to make changes in your relationships with new boundaries. These changes in your mindset will be an indicator to you that you are making real and lasting improvements in your life with your new boundaries. There are eleven steps on the road to building success with boundaries in your life.
A Day in a Life with Boundaries
At the beginning of the book, we were introduced to Sherrie and her life without any boundaries, In this last chapter, we find her a year later after she has put in a lot of hard work to incorporate many boundaries in her life. It is obvious that every area of her life is enhanced by her alignment to God’s plan for her life thorough the use of boundaries. This chapter gives the reader hope that they too can make positive changes in the utilization of boundaries for a more fulfilled and successful life.
NOTE: “Snap Shot” is an attempt to give you a quick, but informative, look at a book that may be a good resource for you. We don’t endorse everything written in any of the books covered in “Snap Shot” but strive to pick books we believe will help parents win!