Questions from the audience… on Parenting.
Third in a four part series.
We had a wonderful time a few weeks ago as we conducted our How We Love as Parents seminar in Laguna Hills, California. The material that Kay and I presented is the subject of the book we are currently writing by the same title.
While our material is about how to parent, its unique emphasis is about how our love styles positively and negatively affect our parenting. If you missed it you can read all about it, hear live testimonies and also be able to purchase the seminar here: Find Out More About The How We Love As Parents Seminar DVD Package .
With too little time and too many unanswered questions, we made a commitment to the audience that our December newsletter would be devoted to answering as many unanswered questions as we could. So here goes!
This week’s question is:
“Because of serious physical / spiritual abuse in my life (polygamous family situation …believe it or not) I have a hard time setting appropriate boundaries with my kids. I feel anxiety when there is a breach in my relationship with them. I will set very vigilant moral boundaries; however, I am also over protective in general. The loose boundaries are related to cleaning up after themselves and respecting me personally. I am very merciful toward them, but to the point of being an enabler as well. Also, when I set a boundary and receive a lot of flack because of it, I question myself which my kids sense and use to their advantage. My husband on the other hand is in my opinion overly aggressive with my kids and I then tend to shield them from him. How can I work through this personal weakness and become the parent they need and want?”
Well, I’m so glad you call it what it really is… a “weakness”. We all have them and each of us has our own individual “Achilles heal.” The great thing about your question is that you have already done a good assessment and have identified each of the components within the dynamics of the family system. Many parents can’t or won’t do this, so you are already way ahead. There are several components to my answer so let me break them up into key bullet points:
- First and foremost, I am so sorry to hear of your difficult and abusive (I presume overly controlling) background in your family of origin (F.O.O.). When we have this kind of history, anxiety is highly predictable and you are probably a Pleaser or a Victim. Re-read each of these two chapters, pick the one that most resembles you and begin answering questions in the workbook. Do the same for your husband and ask him to work through the chapter that applies to your couple dynamic i.e. Controller / Victim. Go slowly and make it your goal to make 2009 your most diligent year of growth.
- Get into a co-dependent support group at Celebrate Recovery or a local Alanon group. These groups challenge your thinking and help you see new ways to become stronger.
- Moral boundaries are very good and yet they are also safe. After all, who can argue with God? Also, because of you abuse, you are probably especially zealous for justice and righteousness. Stated differently, it’s easier to sound tough standing behind our big God’s rules and regulations. You might be overcompensating toward God because you’re opinions are questionable. With your already low self esteem, you will naturally have less self confidence. Yes, your teenage children will quickly exploit this. Who are YOU? Learn to make decisions and stick by them. Pick one or two per day so that you do not overwhelm your circuits.
- Anxious people are fear based as parents and as you said, they tend toward being overly protective because they are frightened about what may happen to their children. This only tightens the spring which will cause some recoil effect at some point in time and it may take along time to win your teen back. As a Pleaser or Victim, you have an under developed anger emotion toward others. Why? Because anger is a separating emotion that puts wedges between people and this heightens the anxiety. We ultimately give in to make ourselves feel better and to bring others closer because we aren’t comfortable with separation. This fear of conflict and tension causes us to become enablers and enablers are never respected. This is how I was, yet as a recovering pleaser, I have grown to actually enjoy some conflict in my day. It is stimulating and challenging which is like a good workout.
- You and your husband have set up an unhealthy “triangle” in which your husband is the “persecutor”, you child the “victim” and you are the “rescuer”. Very common, yet commonly unsuccessful. Each of you are over compensating for the other parent and creating an adversarial relationship instead of teamwork. You need to confess this and ask your husband to be a teammate. He may be “overly aggressive” to make up for your weakness.
- After you do some of the work listed above, begin a plan to share the story of your child hood pain in your F.O.O. with your children. Share what you are learning and your plans to change. Ask your kids for their help and share your new goals with them.
- Go to couples therapy if you are stuck and ask the therapist to help you both implement this plan. I often recommend a martial arts class to pleasers and victims where they learn to create physical safety, self defense and a strong offense. This is a real self esteem builder.
Thanks for your great question. I’m sure that many will profit from it.
Watch for our newsletters on Christmas and New Year’s Day about our teaching topics for the winter quarter.
See you next week on Christmas Day!!! Merry Christmas!
Milan & Kay
Next Week we will have more stimulating questions. I will look forward to being with you.