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Every mom knows balancing bonding and boundaries is like walking a tightrope.
While we seek to teach obedience, we long for strong relationships with our kids. But how? Valerie Murray, my special guest today, knows what it’s like to juggle these two concepts and yearn for balance. She is a mom of 4, author of the popular post here on the blog titled, How to stop yelling at your kids, and offers deep wisdom for today’s topic – balancing bonding and boundaries.
On balancing bonding and boundaries; what every mom needs to know
“No, I am not going to do that.”
A teen’s stubborn will can be like a brick wall.
I usually take my daughter’s cell phone when she responds with disrespect. Then I’ll add a day or chore for each defiant remark.
One time she stacked up 5 days in just a few minutes.
Usually, when my daughter and I butt heads, I know it’s a mood that will pass and our relationship will fall back onto its foundation of love and connection.
I believe the relationship and bonds we create with our children will get us through the strong-willed battles of the teen years.
Author of If I Had a Parenting Do Over Jonathan McKee, recently spoke at my church and shared about the importance of bonding with our children.
When McKee researched his book he asked parents what their number one do-over was. Most parents wished they’d connected with their kids more. Only 2 percent of polled wished they had applied more boundaries.
Boundaries are essential, but we can get so concerned with setting and enforcing them that we miss out on opportunities to connect.
As I thought about ways I’ve connected with my teen, these are the areas that have had a positive impact on our relationship.
Be The One She/He Can Talk To
I want my children to feel like they can come to me with anything. Start building open communication when children are young. Young kids are eager to spend time with you. Plus, you get the added advantage that they think you have all the answers, even when you don’t.
This is one reason I think parents should start teaching children about sex education in age-appropriate ways before they hear it from peers at school. I read my daughter an age-appropriate book series called God’s Design For Sex, starting when she was 7 years old (Before I Was Born). This has opened the door of communication as she has gotten older. To this day, she is not afraid to ask me questions.
Balance Bonding and Boundaries
“Pick up your shoes! Put your dish in the dishwasher.”
There are times I come downstairs into the TV room and my kids hide from me because they know I’m going to tell them to clean up their mess.
Instead of barking out orders like a drill sergeant I need to express my values and needs, make sure they’ve heard my heart correctly, and make requests. This helps build empathy, creating bonds that make them more willing to help.
Some of the most meaningful conversations with my kids occur after bedtime when one of them sneaks into my room to hug me (one last time) and we end up talking for hours. For me, allowing the bedtime boundary to be broken every now and again when sensing a good bonding opportunity has opened the doors to some great conversations.
Apologize When You Blow It
I’ve always heard how important it is to set a consequence and stick with it. While I do agree with that, I have also seen that sometimes, in my anger, my discipline for crossing a set boundary has been unreasonable.
When that happens, I own up to it and find a more reasonable solution. If I have been impatient, demanding or just mean in my anger, God convicts me and apologizing sets our relationship on a foundation of mutual respect.
We are human. We make mistakes. And admitting them will show it’s ok for our kids to admit fault, too.
Don’t Believe The “I don’t care” Attitude
Teens may act like you are embarrassed to be with. They may talk like they wish you weren’t there. You may get the eye-roll or the “leave” look when they’re with their friends.
But the truth is, they do really want to know that you care and support them.
3 months ago my teenager broke her finger playing soccer goalie. We never knew it was broken because she never complained. When I took her for her yearly well-check, an x-ray showed a fracture that needed surgery.
Suddenly my tough little goalie with a broken finger was terrified of having surgery.
When only one parent could take her to the surgery I asked which parent she wanted to go. She told me she wanted her dad over me.
“I just don’t want any drama.”
I guess she didn’t want her mama fretting or fussing over her.
Everyone wants an attentive, empathetic caregiver’s support when they are in pain or at their most vulnerable, and although dads are just as capable of offering such support, let’s face it, sometimes a mom just has more practice reading the need of the moment. I was determined to go.
The surgery got bumped up and I was able to be there the whole time.
I was so glad I was there for her when she needed to change into that awful hospital gown and declared it was the worst thing that’s ever happened in her life.
When she refused to come out of the bathroom wearing that robe and said she would rather live with a broken finger for the rest of her life, I was there encouraging her that it would be ok.
She hid behind me on the walk back to the bed and I put those ugly hospital socks on her feet. When fearful tears poured down her cheeks, I prayed for her.
When she was in recovery and couldn’t use her hand to feed herself jello, she motioned for me to give her bites and sips of juice.
As I was feeding my teen, having flashbacks of the last 14 years that have slipped away so fast, she smiled and said,
“Mom, I’m really glad you’re here.”
The bonds of support we give our children create deep levels of connection that will sustain our relationship through those “terrible teens.”
And we may even get there and realize those years weren’t so terrible at all. In fact, they just may be our favorite.
What ways do you connect with your teens?
Valerie Murray is a wife of 21 years and a busy mom to 4 energetic children. She writes at ValerieMurray.com about keeping faith and family strong through Christ. Her heart’s desire is to offer hope to others and declare the glory of God in her life through her writing. Her mission is to offer encouragement to struggling marriages, overwhelmed moms and people striving to face their fears and know their worth. Coffee, chocolate and a good movie always make her happy! You can find her on Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter, StumbleUpon, Instagram & Google+.
Valerie Murray says
What an honor and joy to be a guest writer on your blog again! Your wisdom and humor to reach us moms is truly inspiring to me. AND your blog make-over looks AMAZING! Love you friend!
You are ALWAYS welcome here, friend! We come from the same tribe – 4 kids, 3 girls and 1 boy, all in the same order. Both runners, both moms with a passion. And your wisdom today is exactly what moms need to hear – I LOVE your words here today. Someday, you’ll be mentoring moms too. xoxo
Love this! Bedtime seems to be my boys’ favorite time for chatting with me! We’ve had some great discussions when the lights are out, prayers are said, and they are snug in their beds! Thanks for sharing these great tips!
It’s all about being present and recognizing those connection moments! Thanks for stopping by, Liz – Val offers such wisdom!
Tiffiney | Welcome Home Ministry says
Hi Val, love this post! Just as you’ve shared here, I’ve learned that what I thought were the worst years have turned out to be what I consider the best years…I can see that now as a mom of four adults. And kuddo’s for seeing past your daughter typical teen behavior in telling you she’d prefer Dad to go with her because – no mama drama! You looked past it and she was so glad for it! Thanks so much for encouraging us to not parent on based on emotion. Blessings to you and your family!
Valerie Murray says
Hi Tiffiney! I’m sure you have some great wisdom on parenting teens. I bet we could talk for hours about life. Thank you so much for your kind words!
Theresa Boedeker says
Being the first to apologize is so important nd restores a relationship faster than anything else. It has worked over and over in my house and then we are both apologizing and humble heasrts can have wonderful conversations and bond.
Valerie Murray says
So true, Theresa. When one person apologizes first, it breaks down that wall and allows for open communication. Thank you so much for taking the time to comment.
Love your wisdom on this subject, Valerie. It gets real with teens! My oldest is 13 now. I have apologized a few times when needed for all my kids over the years. It is a good example to them and they see how human we are. Thanks for sharing your story with your teen. So encouraging.
Valerie Murray says
My daughter just turned 14, so we are about in the same stage navigating the teens together! I think it’s so important to be able to talk with other moms and support one another. Ruthie’s blog is such a great place for moms to find that encouragement! Thank you for visiting!