Boundaries by Henry Cloud

Driving home, all exhausted from the day’s work, all you can think of is eating a nice, quiet dinner with your family, soaking in a nice hot bath, and then heading to bed. But just as you’re about to turn onto your street, the phone rings, and it’s your mom (or sister, or friend, or cousin), needing your urgent help with something.

Inwardly you cringe. You were already picturing that nice warm bubble bath—smelling it, even! But what can you do? You can’t say no, because that would be selfish and unloving.

This scene is all too familiar to me, and until my husband and I went through a marriage course that talked about setting boundaries for extended family, we had no grid for saying no to the people closest to us. Every time they asked a favour, we were automatically available. Never mind that we had other responsibilities; never mind that I, especially, felt resentful of always being made to adjust my own schedule to accommodate everyone else’s needs.

I only recently heard of the book Boundaries by Henry Cloud and John Townsend. And to say it blew my mind is an understatement! I’m greatly surprised at how much theology goes into our not having appropriate boundaries with people, all in the guise of being loving, or, as dictated by our faith, being “Christ-like.” I’m relieved to know that it’s really NOT being unselfish to keep giving in to people!

When parents jump in too often to rescue children from natural consequences like these, they are short-circuiting the process of learning.
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Key Learnings from Boundaries by Henry Cloud

In this post, I hope to share some of the highlights from the book:

1. Boundaries are a necessary part of life.

I used to think of boundaries as only being crucial for the way we relate to other people. But the authors describe it in more detail: they begin with how it’s meant to differentiate our selves from other people. Babies first think of themselves as one with their mothers, and soon they start to learn where they end and where mommy begins. That’s the very first inklings of boundaries!

2. Our childhood experiences affect how we view boundaries.

Our perspective of boundaries are formed from our experiences growing up. If our parents did not give us a healthy picture of boundaries, chances are, our own perspective will end up flawed. This is especially detrimental for kids whose parents are always quick to rescue them, which we discuss in the next point.

3. Natural consequences are an essential boundary we shouldn’t shield our kids from.

Do you know that natural consequences are actually a form of boundary? When we don’t brush our teeth, chances are high that we will develop cavities. When you don’t manage your money well, you will likely end up broke before the month is over. These are examples of natural consequences.

When parents jump in too often to rescue children from natural consequences like these, they are short-circuiting the process of learning. Instead of the child learning that, “Oh, if I don’t do my class project, I’ll get a low grade,” a parent who jumps in with their own version of the class project tells the child that it doesn’t matter whether or not he does a good job; someone else will save him anyway.

This is the usual cause of conflict between parents and grown children, and it would be best if we learn the best way to teach our kids responsibility from a young age.

4. Different people manipulate control in different ways.

Some people use coercion to get what they want; others go passive-aggressive or give the cold shoulder. In any case, it’s still an issue of control.

But knowing our boundaries means that we know no one else can control us, just as we don’t control anyone else. Instead, we are in charge of our own selves, our actions, thoughts, reactions, attitudes, etc.

Learning Healthy Boundaries

Learning healthy boundaries is a crucial skill to apply in our relationships. This post just barely scratches the surface! For a more in-depth study, we recommend you to buy the book, which you can get here from this Amazon link!

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