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Boundaries and Consequences Part 2 They Do Not Work

Posted by Jeff Schadt on 2018-05-16

Boundaries and Consequences Part 2 They Do Not Work

Posted by Jeff Schadt on 2018-05-16


Boundaries and Consequences Part 2 They Do Not Work

In part one of the series on Boundaries and Consequences we explored the reasons we believe in them so deeply and the impact they have on our kids.  In this blog we will explore 5 specific reasons why boundaries and consequences fail our families and our kids.

  1.    They lead to conflict that leaves both sides hurt
  2.    They destroy our kids desire to please us
  3.    They cause our kids to fear us and become dishonest with us
  4.    They fail to address the root of the issue
  5.    They establish a fear of failure in our kids    
  6.    They lead to conflict that leaves both sides hurt

What are your fights really about?  When I ask parents this and they stop and reflect they find what I found when I asked myself this question 13 years ago.  

Most fights are triggered by the threat of, or the implementation of consequences. The fight is about the consequence.  From talking with kids these fights short circuit learning from their mistake for the reasons covered in part one of this blog series. These fights often lead to harsh and cutting words on the part of kids as they react to the consequences hurting their parents. Of course when we are hurt our retorts often hurt our kids. This cycle leads parents to draw conclusions about their kids that can become labels that torpedo our relationship with our kids.  Please read my blog: “Do We Label Our Children” to understand how destructive labels become.

In my time coaching families I have found that very few families have healthy bi-directional resolution processes following these fights where true understanding and forgiveness result between kids and parents.  As a result, the lingering frustration and hurt make future miscommunication, reactions and consequences more likely, leaving the family on a slippery slope. If boundaries and consequences prevent engagement, true learning, and lead to hurt that is difficult to resolve, than how effective are they?

  1. They destroy our kids desire to please us

One of the reasons I am convinced consequences fail us as parents is rooted in the fact that every kid I talked to in the research desired to please their parents.  Sadly due to the battles discussed above and the unresolved hurt, many of the kids I talked with had come to the conclusion that pleasing their parents was not possible which explained why they were:

  •     Tuning their parents out
  •     Overly sensitive to what their parents did and said
  •     Defensive
  •     Likely to over react

I found that the consequences we issue and the surrounding battles actually defeat our kids desire to please their parents resulting in more (not fewer) shortcomings in their follow through and behavior.  

When parents back away from these behavior modification tactics after taking our online influential parents course and follow the implementation process that helps resolve past hurts we find that kid’s hearts return to their parents quickly and the desire to please them and listen to them returns along with their hearts.

  1. They cause our kids to fear us and become dishonest with us?

While we may believe that our kids’ fear of our consequences will keep them in line I have found that the opposite is a far more likely outcome given the realities of the adolescent brain. As covered in part one of this series this fear incentives our kids to hide things from their parents only a few of which are discovered.  When they are discovered, the fall out painfully underscores the need to hide everything from their family. I found in my research that over time this moves our kids towards leading a dual life that can literally take our kids away from us.

To often I sit with kids who have made mistakes or have been hurt because they slipped out to a party and were sexually assaulted. These kids are carrying around regret, guilt and often severe pain that they are too afraid because of their actions to bring into the light with their parents.  These unshared feelings, the sense of failure, and intense pain plagues them building a further wall between them and their parents.

Often when our kids need help processing their failure, pain and guilt, their fear of our reaction, consequences and us prevent them from being honest with us leaving them alone and in a very vulnerable position.  

  1. They fail to address the root of the issue

When our kids fear our reaction and consequences they are immediately on guard and defensive with us.  This leads to tension, resistance, closed mouths and ultimately conflict because we know they are not telling us everything. This reality prevents us from digging in with our kids to help them understand what is causing them to react and make bad decisions. In our home we have found virtually all of our kids bad behavior and decisions stem from deeper issues that they often are not even aware of.  

I will never forget when Jennifer was caught cheating on a test at age 9 and we handled things in a new way.  We found that her feeling stupid and inability to measure up to her brilliant (not dyslexic) older sister left her with negative feelings about herself that motivated her to desire good grades so much that she tried cheating and got caught. The resulting conversations lead to self-awareness, a better view of herself and a lasting resolution to the cheating.

If boundaries and consequences prevent these deeper conversations can we rely on them to raise mature, emotionally aware kids who learn from their mistakes?

     5. They establish a fear of failure in our kids

Today as I coach adolescents I find far to many fearful of venturing out of their comfort zone. They have hidden desires and dreams that they do not pursue because they have come to believe they are failures and fear future failure.

I found that this reality in their minds stemmed from having tried to meet their parents expectations and attempting to be perfect for their parents, only to fall short time and time again.  These failures were met by disappointment, harsh words, and painful consequences associating failure with negative feelings and outcomes.

As a result, I find far to many kids as they get older, adopt negative perspectives of themselves. They conclude ‘I am a failure because I try and always fall short.’  Many are silently beating themselves up for their reactions, stupid decisions and letting their parents down. As parents we have to ask ourselves if we believed that we were failures, would we venture into new areas where the risk of failure is even higher?  As a result kids develop an aversion to failure and some give up and adopt an I do not care attitude because if they care, the pain of their failure overwhelms them, so it is better not to try at all.

‘Boundaries and Consequences’ do not associate failure with learning, improving and future success. Instead they associate failure with disappointment, frustration, conflict pain and consequences.

We say we learn more from our failures than our successes.  

I believe this is true when we are approached in a manner that opens us up to self reflect rather then makes us defensive, frustrated, leads to self doubt and pain in the relationship between parents and their children.

Since changing our approach from being ardent ‘Boundaries and Consequences’ parents, Deedee and I have come to see a better, more influential approach to parenting.  

We now believe in our kids because of our research.  Contrary to our previous assumption we found that kids, even adolescents do not want to mess up their lives.  In fact we found that every kid desires to succeed and to please their parents.

Believing this and in our kids has lead to far more influence in our kids’ lives.  We found this influence to be far more powerful than any consequence we could deliver.  Why? Because we gained access to our kids lives that allowed us to draw upon these inherent desires to please and succeed.  This approach opened our kids up to exploring the underlying feelings and beliefs that lead to their mistakes, poor decisions and shortcomings. As a result we find they are much more self-aware than many of their friends and are making amazing decisions in the face of peer pressure.  

In fact just two weeks ago my son had some friends over while we were gone.  After they got a bit too rough in the nerf war in our home he asked them to leave.  30 minutes later he let our dog out. Rico took off smelling the boys hiding on our property behind a shed.  He followed Rico to discover them vaping and doing weed. He asked them nicely to leave and informed them that if they did this on the property again he would contact their parents.  This scared those boys to death because two of them had just come off two month suspension of all video games and being with friends for having been caught doing marijuana. They were back at it in less then a week later.

My son sees and understands that these kids are escaping many negative feelings with in and about their families through these activities.  Why is my 15 year old standing up to them. It’s not because he faces consequences.  It is because he feels good about himself, close to and supported by us.  Did he hide this event from us? No he told both his mom and myself separately and we were able to ask him questions like why are you not giving in to all this.  

His answers they are hurting and escaping their hurt with their families.  Paul is self aware and has turned to face some his own negative conclusions about himself.  He sees how fast they are going down hill and does not want to be seen or viewed like them.

What impresses me the most is that he can still be friends with them while desiring something better for them and hopes he can help them see a different path.  Am I scared he will fall in with them. No and this gives him the confidence to believe in himself and to take a stand with his friends. We have seen his two older sisters make the same decisions.  Hurt, self doubts and negative beliefs about oneself are powerful motives to make bad decisions.

Learn more about becoming an influential parent by watching our free webinar and consider taking our Influential Parenting Online Class.

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