There I am…

Standing on my porch, my hands on my hips in a super hero pose. My lawn is not a lawn, but instead a moat protecting my house and the loved ones who live in it.

This isn't a dream, but instead what I envision when I think of setting, communicating and enforcing boundaries. This visual image is the result of an assignment I was given last summer when I was learning about self-care.

I occasionally use this image, but I personally connect to one sentence that I tell myself when making decisions for myself and my family. What is that sentence? I'll share it at the end after we talk a little bit about the three steps of boundaries, but before we even get there…where did boundaries begin?

To find that out, let's jump to Genesis 1. Here's a short recap:

Genesis 1:1-3 – In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.
And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness.God called the light “day,” and the darkness he called “night.” And there was evening, and there was morning—the first day.{Day 1: Boundaries}

{Day 2: Boundaries} God separates the waters above from the waters below. Genesis 1:6-8.

{Day 3: Boundaries} God separates the land and the seas. Genesis 1:9-13.

{Day 4: Boundaries} God separates the light and the darkness. Genesis 1:14-19.

{Day 5: Boundaries} God creates some creatures specifically for the sea, and some specifically for the air. Genesis 1:20-23.

{Day 6: Boundaries} God creates three specific types of creatures each with their own space, and God creates man with his own responsibilities. Genesis 1:24-31.

In creation God saw it fit for boundaries to exist, which leads me to believe that they are relevant for you and for me. So as we explore boundaries, there are three specific steps you can take to find peace.

Step 1: Know Your Boundaries

Before you can “have boundaries,”  you need to decide what boundaries are important to you. You need to take some time to evaluate self-care, needs, wants, limitations. There may be things you need to have very clear boundaries on, and other things that you don’t have to have strict boundaries on. There isn’t a right or wrong way to do boundaries, but you should take time to evaluate where you are at with them. As you begin to explore boundaries, it is best to start small. So to help you get started I created a “getting started” worksheet! To request your free copy of these questions click here: Boundaries

Step 2: Communicate Your Boundaries

After you have clearly decided on what boundaries are needed in your life, the next step is to communicate those boundaries with others. I know this seems obvious, but often this step is skipped. Rather than communicating boundaries up front, we struggle with constantly enforcing boundaries that no one knew about…this is frustrating for everyone.

Let me give you an example.

At night after I tuck the girls in, I have “me” time. Of course, like most children, then would love to stay up late and spend time with me long after their bedtime. But they know that after I tuck them in, it is my time to wind down and take care of me. Before I explained this to my girls, they would get out of their beds repeatedly needing one more drink, hug, kiss…you name it. And I would always end up frustrated. They were stepping over my boundary, but they had no idea that it was there. I had never communicated it with them.

So finally, one night, before I was frustrated, I explained to them that from after school until bed time was mommy and girls time. But after bed time was my time to take care of me and to essentially “tuck myself in”…to go through my bedtime routine. I explained to them that I love them and to be the best mommy I can be, I need to take care of myself. Part of that includes having time at the end of the day to unwind after working all day and taking care of them.

After I communicated this simple boundary, the times that the girls got out of bed dwindled to almost nothing. Every once in a while someone still needs an extra hug or a drink, but for the most part, they stay in their beds.

This might seem simple, but as a parent of youngsters, bedtime can turn into a time of frustration very quickly when boundaries are not being communicated or enforced.

Step 3: Enforce Your Boundaries

Knowing your boundaries is a huge first step. Communicating them in a healthy way is vital in allowing others to respect your boundaries. But there will be times when other people push your buttons and test your boundaries. Sometimes this is done intentionally and sometimes unintentionally.

Either way, enforcing your boundaries becomes important if you want healthy relationships. So let’s go back to the example with my girls.

If I tell them that my expectation {or boundary} is that they stay in bed after I tuck them in, but then when they get up I don’t enforce the boundary this confuses them. I told them one thing, but I am not following through. So they wonder…does she really mean what she says.

This also decreases their security. If they can’t take me at my word, and they don’t know my boundaries, then they are forced to try to figure out my boundaries on their own…this leads them to test my boundaries until I give them a concrete one.

We can see this best in children, but even as adults we like to know what is expected of us. We feel safe in relationships where we know what is okay and not okay.

At first when I began setting, communicating and enforcing boundaries I was scared that people would be mad at me, get their feelings hurt, or reject me. That’s why I came up with one sentence that I say to myself when I have to communicate or enforce a boundary. That sentence is this:

When I make a healthy choice for me and my girls, if other people don’t like, that’s okay.

What I’ve learned is that I’m not responsible for other people’s feelings. Yes, I need to be respectful, and setting and enforcing boundaries is not a license to be cruel or unkind. Instead it is an opportunity to have healthier relationships.

It is an opportunity to stop managing other people’s actions or feelings, and to take care of yourself in a way that honors God, yourself and others.

Boundaries allow you to take responsibility for your self-care. And to allow others the same opportunity. When you begin to implement boundaries in your life, you might see that other people are doing things for themselves that you thought you had to do for them.

Something as simple as staying in their beds at night J

Rather than allowing shame to tell me I’m a bad mom for not wanting my kids to get out of bed a hundred times, or I’m a bad mom for not wanting to give them one more hug (50 times), I can be confident that I made the best choice for me, and making this choice allows me to be a better mom. Everyone wins! To get started exploring your own boundaries, click here: Boundaries.

As you begin to explore healthy boundaries, it begins with knowing what boundaries you need, deciding how you will communicate them, and finding the strength and courage to enforce them. What I have found is that the more clear I am upfront, the less I have to enforce. And the more consistent I am with enforcing, the less often I have to enforce.

Don’t forget to request your free boundaries worksheet here: Boundaries.

In the comments, I’d love to hear what resonates with you most, your experience with boundaries, and what boundaries you are going to set.

Have a great day setting boundaries!




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