This time of year, we are with relatives that may have come from far away places. We may be hosting them in our home. This could be fertile ground for chaos and drama if we don’t figure out what we need to experience the joy and peace of the season. The universal theme in research regarding relationship enhancement is an insight into avoiding worst-case scenarios and preparation. Preparation is about setting boundaries early. Setting boundaries is an intentional way to take care of yourself and create clarity about what is acceptable and what is not. All healthy relationships have boundaries!
Years ago, there was an education study regarding playground boundaries and elementary-aged children. The school was newly built and the fencing for the playground was not installed when the school opened. University students nearby did a study of how the students reacted on the playground without the fence. They observed children during recess and were surprised to see that the youngsters played close to the building. When the fence was erected months later, the university students observed something very different. The children were now running with reckless abandon throughout the playground, even putting their little noses up to the fence-line. The conclusion outlined that there is safety in knowing where the boundaries are. Boundary setting is essential to parenting. Free-range children are uncertain as to their limits.
Relationships can’t be healthy until those involved communicate their boundaries clearly, and boundaries are respected. Working with adolescents who are in the process of learning who they are and what they expect in relationships is exciting because I teach them how to treat themselves and how others should treat them. An adolescent girl shared with me that her boyfriend is sweet at times but has shoved her and told her to “Shut up.” I asked her what her response was. She said she was nervous and unsure about what to do or say, she just cried. After teaching her skills to set boundaries, she was excited and decided to talk to him. She shared how the conversation went.
“Jeremy, I want you to know that the other night when you shoved me and told me to shut up, I was not clear as to what I should do. After thinking about it, I am telling you that what you did and said to me is unacceptable.”
Jeremy went on to justify, explain and defend his actions. She replied with,
“There is nothing you can say or do to justify how you treated me. If that ever happens again, this relationship will be over.”
She then shared with me how empowered she felt. I was proud of her for asserting her position and for creating a boundary to be treated well. I explained that what we accept we teach.
Teach people how to treat you through setting boundaries and experience peace and joy in your relationships.
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