Sunday, March 20, 2011

Personal Boundaries Part III

OK, folks. Let’s finish up this chat about personal boundaries…..those invisible demarcations between ourselves and others. We cannot see them, but we sure do know when they have been violated. We violate the boundaries of our children all the time, thinking that is our right. Oh yes, we do! When we disrespect the little person by grabbing her harshly, when we scream at him, when we give one of them a smack (Yes, I do, oh, I DO understand the impetus to do this. They absolutely can try our patience!), we have violated their boundaries. As my one and only child is grown, I am allowed to pontificate on this… don’t know her name and can’t check with her, but if you could she would absolutely state that I violated her boundaries quite a bit when she was little. But, as Maya Angelou has explained, and as Oprah paraphrases, “When I know better, I do better.” I hope that I have learned something in the intervening years since she was small and now. Now I understand the damage we do when we disrespect our child’s boundaries while we insist that they respect ours. Children always learn by what we do much more than what we say. We model for our children how to set interpersonal boundaries. If you are a woman remaining in an abusive marriage or domestic alliance, you are demonstrating to both your sons and daughters that it is acceptable to be abused. Little boys who witness domestic violence are six times more likely (600% more likely) to batter their female partners than are those little boys who do not witness this. Little girls who watch Mom getting wacked or verbally abused grow up to experience the same. This is all true even if the children in question tell themselves, “I will never strike my partner.” Or, “I will leave in a heartbeat if my partner abuses me.” And, let us not forget that women can also engage actively in domestic abuse and that can have equally devastating consequences for children who witness the abuse.

Modeling appropriate personal boundaries for our children is one of the best “gifts” we can give them. Seeing personal boundaries respected as we grow up automatically instills good boundaries in our children. They don’t even have to address this issue….they just do it (Imagine how great it would be if you didn’t have to struggle with this issue).

To wind this up, ya gotta start somewhere. I didn’t understand the concept of personal boundaries until I was in graduate school (oh, yes, a late bloomer!). What I am saying, is that it is NEVER too late to “get it.” WHEN I KNOW BETTER, I DO BETTER!

Sandy Fournier, M.A., LMFT

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