Boundaries are an important part of any healthy relationship—whether with your boss, partner, children, or mailman!
You likely don’t want your boss modeling bathing suits to get your opinion. Or your partner to leave for a vacation with friends without telling you. Or your children to “redecorate” the house with a box of crayons. Or your mailman to invite himself into your house for coffee!
Boundaries help ensure none of these scenarios happen! They help ensure a relationship is one of respect, support, and care.
Steph Fink shares 10 steps to creating effective boundaries with us with this excerpt from her newest book, The Blessed Juggle – From Cray to Okay in 30 Days.
10 Steps to Creating Effective Boundaries:
1. Boundaries need an “if-then” statement.
When my boys were little, I used to give vague cray statements like, “IF you go off the mulched area at the playground (where I couldn’t see them), THEN I’m going to count to three.” What warning does that statement really make? Even they knew nothing significant happened at three except that Mom counted. It was like, “SO WHAT MOM. I can count to three, too. Yay us.” I felt frustrated and powerless. I had an “if-then” statement; I just needed to revise it…a couple of times.
I found one that worked for me, “IF you go off the mulch area, THEN we’re going home.” Booyah! Momma is feeling large and in charge. Playground time just shifted from cray to okay. The catch is when my precious offspring traveled off the mulched area, I needed to enforce the boundary and take them home. IF nothing happened, THEN in the words of Scooby Doo, “Ruh, roh.”
2. A boundary is not a boundary without an enforceable consequence.
If I said, “IF you go off the mulched area, THEN you will never watch TV again. Ever. Like forever. No TV. Nada.”
First of all this would be cray. Secondly, I wouldn’t be able to enforce it nor would I want to enforce it. This Momma likes some strategic, quality, quiet, screen time! Oh yes, I do.
3. Boundaries give others freedom to own the choices they make.
We have tons of boundaries placed on us. For example, IF I don’t pay my taxes; THEN I will be fined. IF I don’t pay the fines, THEN I will eventually be incarcerated. IF I get incarcerated, THEN I won’t be able to tell my kids to stay on the mulched area of the playground. See how it works?
I’ve been challenged to identify and set effective boundaries; this is especially true when I’m in the heat of the moment. So, consider praying and drafting your boundaries with God, your spouse or a friend in order to brainstorm some ideas to be prepared in advance. Some boundaries need to be made in the moment, and that’s great, but many times they can be drafted ahead of time.
A simple boundary like, “IF you look both ways when you cross the street, THEN I’ll let you bike around the neighborhood wider than our block.” Enforced boundaries help create more freedom
4. Boundaries are for health, safety, to reward and discipline.
Boundaries aren’t only negative, they’re positive, too!
IF you miss the bus, THEN you pay me $1 to drive you.
IF you unload the dishwasher or empty the kitchen trash without me asking, THEN I’ll pay you $1.
5. Boundaries need an “if-then” statement leveraging the right kind of currency. Boundaries need to be relevant.
My kids’ current currency is screen time. They love playing video games. So, currently, a lot of the boundaries are based off that currency. When they get older, some of the boundaries might be based off of “driving the car” currency.
6. Boundaries need clarity.
I told my son, “IF you don’t roll the empty trash cans into the garage from the curb on your way in from school; THEN you will not have any screen time that day.” I first said to roll the trash cans in when you get home from school but sometimes the trash gets picked up late. I needed to add clarity to the boundary that the trash cans needed to be “empty”.
7. Boundaries often need to be repeated.
Often boundaries need to be repeated, practiced and reinforced. I don’t mean nagging because blessed jugglers don’t nag, but they do reinforce. Practice makes progress. Just because a boundary’s been identified doesn’t mean life is perfect. It means we have a workable guideline to practice with.
8. Boundaries need to be communicated calmly.
State your boundary as a matter of fact rather than a matter of emotion. Boundaries are more difficult to receive when delivered emotionally.
9. Boundaries need to be significant to all involved parties.
Since I decided the trash cans were not going to be added to my juggling life, I needed to create a boundary. And, since that boundary was set, had an enforceable, clear and undesirable consequence, my son has rarely forgotten to bring in the trash cans.
My husband and I have created boundaries in the way we communicate to each other. “IF you yell at me, THEN I will call a time-out and not continue talking with you.”
10. Healthy boundaries are a way to express love. Unhealthy boundaries are a way to exert and abuse power. There is a big difference.
Using that last statement, an unhealthy boundary would be, “IF you yell at me, THEN I will hit you.” That is an unhealthy boundary because it is abusive and is not okay.
Here are some things to keep in mind. Does my boundary:
- have an “IF – THEN” statement?
- have an enforceable (positive and/or negative) consequence?
- give freedom for the person to make and own their choices?
- use a relevant currency?
- make sense? If not, how can I give it clarity?
- need to be repeated/reinforced?
- provide safety to involved persons?
- reflect healthy standards?
- represent significance to all involved parties?
- express love?
IF there’s an area you’ve been feeling particularly cray, THEN you just may need to create and communicate a boundary. Boundaries bring blessings and lighten our juggle.
What’s a good boundary you have? Share and give others more ideas!
Steph Fink is an author, speaker and owner of Encouraged in Heart, LLC. Her purpose is to encourage women’s hearts with practical principles for purposeful and powerful lives. Encouraged in Heart is proud to partner with the A21 Campaign to fight human trafficking. Visit Steph on Facebook or Instagram.