Boundaries Blog — relationships

Boundaries Q&A with Dr. John Townsend: Adult Child Who Refuses to Pay Back a Loan

Boundaries Q&A with Dr. John Townsend: Adult Child Who Refuses to Pay Back a Loan

Question: What kinds of consequences are appropriate for a 39-year-old daughter who refuses to take responsibility for paying a college loan that her father and I co-signed in good faith?

Answer: First, let me say that I'm sorry to hear about your situation. I know that it can feel uncomfortable to be at odds with your adult child.

In this situation, your first decision is to approach your daughter in a vulnerable way and describe how her behavior is impacting you. You could say something like ...

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Why Smart People Accept Unacceptable Relationships

Why Smart People Accept Unacceptable Relationships

When I (Dr. Townsend) guide people through a process of examining previous difficult relationships, the one question I have found most helpful is this: What was the "payoff" in your choice? In other words, what good things did you think you'd get when you began a relationship with that person?

We wind up with difficult people for a reason—there was something we valued, wanted, or hoped for. And because the need was strong, we may not have paid attention to something unacceptable in that person's character....

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Surprising Ways Rewards and Praise Can Harm Others

Surprising Ways Rewards and Praise Can Harm Others

We sometimes reward (through actions) and praise (through words) our spouses, employees, children, and friends in ways that can actually harm them, even though it feels good at the time because it seems so positive. But what seems positive is not always what is best. A pizza slice or two is positive—but four can cause problems. These unwise reward/praise approaches, although well intentioned, create bad fruit. Remember—these are patterns, not isolated events. Doing these things every now and then would be all right, but when they become trends, they risk fostering attitudes of entitlement....

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The Disease of Self-Sufficiency

The Disease of Self-Sufficiency

My (Dr. Townsend) three-year-old son, Benny, is now firmly ensconced in the "I can do it!" stage of life. The other day we were getting ready to go out to dinner, and everybody was ready but Benny. He'd gotten all ready except for his pesky Velcro-strapped tennis shoes. They just wouldn't cooperate.

Being the helpful father (actually, the hurried father), I bent down to fasten his shoes for him. He quickly pushed my hands away, protesting, "I'll do it! I'll do it!" And he meant it. So we negotiated....

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Nice Guys Don't Finish Last

Nice Guys Don't Finish Last

I (Dr. Cloud) had a very interesting conversation recently with a leader who accomplishes a lot and is very driven and effective. I have always been a fan of his work. We were working on a project together, and he made a reference to a particular work habit of his, logging almost every thought he has about his work into a very complicated matrix in a journal, and I asked him about it. Nothing wrong with carrying a little book around and jotting down good ideas when they come. But this was much more; it was obsessive. He said, "I think it's probably part of my anxiety disorder."...

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