How to Win a Titanic Power Struggle with Your Child

In one family I (Dr. Townsend) know, seven-year-old Taylor was going through a titanic power struggle with his mother. Sometimes, she wondered if setting boundaries with kids was actually possible. Taylor fought any “do” or “don’t” she said. Finally, his mom went to his bedroom to talk to him. As she opened the door, a cup perched on the top of the door tipped over, covering her from head to toe with milk. Any parent would have blown up at her child. Instead, Taylor’s mom said, her face dripping with milk, “Son, this is really serious. I’m going to have to take some time to figure out what will be happening to you. I’ll let you know.” The next few hours were excruciating for Taylor as he waited in limbo. By that time, the mom had called her husband and worked out a plan. The plan included restrictions on Taylor’s time—such as no TV, limited outdoor time, and limited friend time—and consequences—such as shampooing the carpet and learning how to use a washing machine to clean Mom’s clothes. To avoid feeling like the bad guy, Taylor joked with his dad that evening about the incident, saying, “Dad, wasn’t that kind... Continue Reading »

Why Your Child Really Isn’t Perfect and What to Do About It

Children need more than a parent who will talk about boundaries. They need a parent who will be boundaries. This means that in whatever situation arises, you respond to your child with empathy, firmness, freedom, and consequences. This is how God handles his children, and he is our model. But, sometimes parents contribute to the problem by trying to justify their kid’s behavior, rather than addressing the issue. Setting boundaries with kids isn’t about “making” your child do anything. It is much more about structuring your child’s existence so that he experiences the consequences of his behavior, thus leading him to be more responsible and caring. Use the following three key steps to help begin the process with your kids: Step 1: Acknowledge that your child is not perfect. All kids are immature sinners; this is our human condition. Some parents have difficulty with this first step. They deny their child’s behavior. They rationalize genuine problems. For example, smarting off becomes a cute sense of humor. Laziness becomes fatigue. Intrusiveness becomes high-spiritedness. Parents rationalize their child’s problems for many reasons. Some do it to avoid guilty feelings. Some don’t want their own perfectionism challenged. Some feel as if their child... Continue Reading »

How to Overcome a Victim Mentality

A woman complained to me (Dr. Cloud) about a coworker who would always interrupt her while she was trying to get her job done. She acted as if her tendency to be behind in her work was her coworker’s fault. “Why do you talk to her?” I asked. “What do you mean?” she replied. “When she comes in and interrupts, why do you get into a conversation with her?” “Well, I have to. She is standing there talking.” “Why don’t you just tell her that you have work to do, or close your door and put up a ‘Do Not Disturb’ sign?” The woman looked at me with a blank stare. To have choices and to have control of her own behavior was a concept that hadn’t occurred to her. She felt that if something happened “to her,” then that was the way it had to be. There was nothing she could do to change it. When I suggested that she had many choices, she quizzed me about them. I gave her five or six suggestions, from talking to the woman about the problem, to talking to a supervisor, to asking to be moved to another area. This was a... Continue Reading »

7 Tips for Setting Summer Boundaries with Your Kids

It is scary how our kids can sense when we are weak and ready to give in to them. This can be especially true during the summer when kids are home all day and away from the structured environment of school. Without boundaries, kids learn how to beg, plead, argue, and rationalize to get out of their responsibilities. The later you start to enforce boundaries, the more energetically your children will resist. Here are seven tips to help you set important boundaries with your kids this summer: 1. Create summer structure Develop boundaries that you need for your family and present them to your child, such as taking time each day to play on their own, reading a book, cleaning their room, going to bed on time, etc. You and your child both need to be a part of this process. The more you involve her in it, the more likely she is to take ownership of it and cooperate in her own growth. Invite her to partner with you, even though the plan is still going to be executed if she refuses. 2. Introduce new boundaries at a peaceful time. Pick a good time and place when you and... Continue Reading »

The Best Boundaries Words for Kids

I (Dr. Cloud) can still remember what happened that day when I was eight years old. I made a big mistake, but I didn’t know it at the moment. I thought I was getting back at my sister, who was sixteen at the time. Opportunities for revenge were few and far between, and I was not about to let this one slip by. Sharon and her friend were goofing around in the den when one of them threw a pillow and broke the overhead light. They quickly figured out a way to arrange the light in such a way that you could not tell it was broken. They thought that they were off the hook. Little did my sister know that she had a sociopathic little brother with a plan. When my father came home, I could not wait to tell him what they had done. I told him that they had broken the light, and he asked me to show him. I led him into the den, not knowing that Sharon and her friend were still in there. I was caught. Here he was, asking me about the broken light, and there they were, watching me seal my fate... Continue Reading »

Adults Without Boundaries Raise Kids Without Boundaries

Since writing Boundaries in 1992, we (Dr. Cloud and Dr. Townsend) have spoken to more than a million people about creating boundaries in their lives. Thousands have told us that creating boundaries has enabled them to love and to live better, some for the first time. Nothing is more exciting than to see people grow and change. But from our own experience and that of our audiences and readers, one thing became obvious to us. Adults with boundary problems had not developed those problems as grown-ups. They had learned patterns early in life and then continued those out-of-control patterns in their adult lives, where the stakes were higher. They had learned the following boundary problems as youngsters: Inability to say no to hurtful people or set limits on hurtful behavior from others Inability to say no to their own destructive impulses Inability to hear no from others and respect their limits Inability to delay gratification and accomplish goals and tasks Tendency to be attracted to irresponsible or hurtful people and then try to “fix” them Taking responsibility for other people’s lives Ability to be easily manipulated or controlled Struggles with intimacy and maintaining closeness with others Inability to be honest... Continue Reading »

Help Your Children Develop a Balanced View of Themselves and Others

When children come into the world, they are confused about the nature of their relationships. They do not think they are dealing with one person. In their minds, there are two mommies, not one. Or, two daddies, not one. There is the “good” mommy and the “bad” one. The good one is the one who gratifies them. When they are hungry or needy, they protest, and the good mommy comes and relieves their stress. When they are gratified, they see this mommy as “good.” But if something they want is not forthcoming and Mommy frustrates their wish, she is seen as the “bad” mommy. You may even remember this literally happening. It is not unusual for a child to hear “no” and say, “Bad Mommy.” This split is universal. Some adults have still not resolved this problem. If you do what they want, they are very loving and see you as a good person. But if you say “no” to them, they see you as bad for not giving them what they wanted. Then when you gratify them, you are seen as good all over again. The other side of this is what goes on inside children. When they are... Continue Reading »

How Loving Parents End Up With Selfish Kids

Sometimes the most loving parents end up with the most selfish children. How can that be? We have all heard people say things like, “You know how Susan is. She only thinks of herself.” And many times, Susan comes from a nice family. But Susan’s parents did not set boundaries that required her to respect the feelings of others. This lack of boundaries led to egocentrism, which affected Susan’s ability to love. Having no boundaries in childhood can also lead to impulse problems, addictions, or irresponsibility, which is always unloving. George sat in my (Dr. Cloud’s) office, despondent. His wife, Janet, whom he loved deeply, had just moved out because he had lost another job. A very talented person, George seemed to have everything he needed for success. But he had lost several good jobs because of his irresponsibility and inability to follow through. Bosses loved the talent but hated the performance. And after several family disruptions because of his failures, Janet had had enough. “I love her so much,” George said to me. “Doesn’t she see that?” “I believe that you love her,” I said. “But in reality, I don’t think that she does see your love. All she... Continue Reading »

Raising Kids With an Eye on the Future

It was a normal day, but one that would forever change my friend’s parenting. We had finished dinner, and I (Dr. Cloud) was visiting with my friend, Allison, and her husband, Bruce, when she left the dinner table to do some chores. Bruce and I continued to talk until a phone call took him away as well, so I went to see if I could lend Allison a hand. I could hear her in their 14-year-old son Cameron’s room. I walked in to a scene that jolted me. She was cheerfully putting away clothes and sports equipment and making the bed. She struck up a conversation as if things were normal: “I can’t wait for you to see the pictures from our trip. It was so much—” “What are you doing?” I asked. “I’m cleaning up Cameron’s room,” she said. “What does it look like I’m doing?” “You are what?” “I told you. I’m cleaning up his room. Why are you looking at me like that?” All I could do was to share with her the vision in my head. “I just feel sorry for Cameron’s future wife.” Allison straightened up, froze for a moment, and then hurried from the... Continue Reading »

Overcome Five Obstacles to Creating Boundaries With Kids

Boundaries with Kids

If you’re new to this website, you may not be aware that there are 12 free teaching videos by Boundaries co-authors, Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend. Today, we’re highlighting a really insight video that focuses on how to overcome five obstacles to creating boundaries with kids. If you’re a mother, father, grandparent, aunt, or uncle, this video will give you important insight to improve the way you interact with children. Take the next 4 minutes to learn what you might be doing that could sabotage the benefits of boundaries with your kids. And, discover new ways to help your children, grandchildren, nieces, and nephews chart a course towards mature adulthood. Click on the picture to view video: Overcome Five Obstacles to Creating Boundaries with Kids To watch more of these insightful videos, click here.