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Focus on the Family Broadcast

Raising Kids With Healthy Boundaries (Part 2 of 2)

Raising Kids With Healthy Boundaries (Part 2 of 2)

Psychologist and author Dr. Henry Cloud describes how parents can strengthen their children's character by teaching them to take responsibility for themselves. (Part 2 of 2)
Original Air Date: January 27, 2016

Preview:

Dr. Henry Cloud: You don’t make up a strategy on the battlefield. You know, what general ever said, okay, let’s go fight the war. And when we get out there, we’ll figure out what to do?

End of Preview

Jim Daly: (Laughs).

Dr. Cloud: That’s not what you do. What you do is you sit down, first of all, the generals sit down, and they figure out what’s the war we’re trying to win here and what battles do we need to make sure we’re gonna to win and what battles are we not gonna fight? Because that becomes a very important part of any strategy, what you’re not gonna do.

John Fuller: Well, it takes a lot of thought and effort and energy and time to be a good parent. And we’ve got a great program for you today on Focus on the Family with Jim Daly. We’re gonna feature that man there, Dr. Henry Cloud, as he helps us define appropriate boundaries in our parenting. Thanks for joining us today. I’m John Fuller.

Jim: John, you know, last time I learned a lot as a dad on things I could do differently, and I hope all of you did as well. If you didn’t hear the program last time, get the download you know, smart phone app, whatever you need to do. Order the CD and listen to the program because I think there were a lot of great nuggets of wisdom that Dr. Cloud brought to the parenting effort. Today we want to turn back to his book, Boundaries with Kids. He and Dr. John Townsend wrote that book a few years ago but there are so many good things in there. We’re gonna talk about the law of motivation today and several of the other laws that they uncovered there for us as parents. So I’m looking forward to the time.

John: And Dr. Cloud has been here a number of times. He is a well-known author and speaker and he’s a psychologist who is really offering Biblical insights. I think that’s one of the things I really appreciate about him, Jim. He integrates the scripture into what he says here about parenting.

Jim: Yeah, definitely. Henry, welcome back to the program.

Dr. Cloud: It’s good to be with you guys. And, and one of the reasons I love this topic with you guys is we’re all in at this time.

Jim: (Laughs).

Dr. Cloud: We all have, have kids at, at these ages and it’s fun.

Jim: It makes it fun. It’s kind of like an experiment, right? I loved what you said-

John: It’s our parenting support group.

Jim: (laughs) Yeah. This is it, right here. So everybody can listen in to this. But it is, you said it so well, a parent said to me, “Every stage has been better than the one before.” So when you have the toddlers… I’ve enjoyed it. I’ve seen those things. There’s work in each one. There are some things that are a little more troubling. But by and large I’m looking forward to the next few years I’ve got with my boys before they go off to do what they’re gonna do, college or vocation, whatever they might do. And I want to help them in that phase of both of our lives in a strong way because I want to launch them in a way that they are ready to go…

John: Mm-hmm.

Jim: … for the Lord, for their future spouses and for their role as fathers. And it’s great to have you here to talk about that.

Dr. Cloud: You know it, if we can keep that sentence in mind, parenting is always about the future.

Jim: It’s hard to keep it mind.

Dr. Cloud: It’s hard to keep it mind. But when you’re talking about whether or not your kid, you know, has done their homework, it’s not about the homework, it’s about the IRS 20 years from now.

Jim: (Laughs).

Dr. Cloud: Because the IRS is gonna want to know, did they do their homework? Right?

Jim: Right.

Dr. Cloud: And so that’s what you’re trying to teach them. Not about the math or the science.

Jim: Well, and it’s so true, those habits that you want to see. One of the difficulties, and again, we talked about this in a variety of ways last time is in,  developing those habits, how do we have the right throttle emotionally as the parent to lay down the law and help them live to it? And then not be too overwhelming when it comes to their failures, but to use them as moments to teach them.

Dr. Cloud: Jim, you just gave an entire course on systematic theology.

Jim: (Laughs).

Dr. Cloud: No, seriously. I wish we could go back and hear this because what you said is lay down the law and help them to, I think you said, to live up to it without killing them in some way. You know, becoming overbearing or something. Okay, so in that, this is the whole message of the Bible. So, because what a lot of parents do is they lay down the law and then what they do is they watch for the infractions, and they spank the infractions or yell at the infractions or they say, “No, no,” and they call that parenting. What you said was you lay down the law and you help them to live up to it. So that is not only the way the Bible says to do life…

Jim: Mm.

Dr. Cloud: … the way God did it with us. It’s also the way you run companies, it’s the way you run families, it’s the way you run every aspect of life, that God gives us ways and standards. But he doesn’t give us ways and standards and then just punishes every time we break it. In fact, he realizes… he gives us the ways and standards that are above our ability to do them…

Jim: Mm.

Dr. Cloud: … that’s what growth is. But then he comes down and he helps us to live up to them. So parenting is about all of that. It’s about figuring out what are the standards we’re trying to live up to and he or she, our kids, are going to need help to live up to those. That’s parenting. The other way is the law that just, you know, as Paul says, the law never works anyway, just laying down the law and, you know, punishing people for when they don’t do it. It never works. They need help to get there.

Jim: Well, that is really interesting. In your book, Boundaries with Kids, you and doctor…

Dr. Cloud: And, again, I did not say don’t have any rules.

Jim: Right. (Laughs).

Dr. Cloud: You must have rules.

John: Just to clarify.

Jim: There’s the clarifying moment.

Dr. Cloud: You can have too many rules, but you must have rules. But what you got to figure out is this, rules do not build the capacity in the child to live up to the rules.

Jim: Well, let’s talk about how you do that. Because one of laws in your book is the law of motivation and that motivation is to help them live up to the rules. So talk about the law of motivation. How do I get that little guy or gal to live up to rules, the law of motivation? Motivate them.

Dr. Cloud: Okay. Very interesting sentence, how do I get that little guy to live up to the rules? What if we just said this, how do it get that little guy to get that little guy to live up to the rules?

Jim: That’s better.

Dr. Cloud: Because that’s what we want, right? And so, what we have to realize is basically that we, have two drives in us. You know, we have a drive for pain, and we have a drive for pleasure, and there are different things that feel good  to us, et cetera, et cetera. Now, what we know is that in all of us there is a certain drive for what feels good that’s not good. In other words, it feels good for me to not do my homework, right? It feels good for me to not have consequences if I do something wrong. What the Bible tells us is all discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful but sorrowful. But in the end, it produces the peaceful fruit of righteousness. So the question becomes for parents, you know, we’re talking about how to motive them. What, what we’re really trying to do is we’re trying to tap into the motivation that God gave all of us, which is for a good life.

Jim: Mm.

Dr. Cloud: Right? For… because our brains are wired to, we’re supposed to enjoy life. We have pleasure centers and all this kind of stuff. But what we’ve got to is we’ve got to make sure that we organize the environment around them to where doing good things gets them a good life. And doing bad things, I don’t really like the life I get when I do bad things because I go to toddler purgatory for a while…

Jim: Right.

Dr. Cloud: … and that doesn’t feel good. And so what we’re doing is we are entering in a relationship, and we are going to prevent them from doing what feels good to them that will produce death. And we’re going to give them a lot of options to do what is good for them that will produce life. Now, notice in there what I’m talking about is I want them to learn to make the right choices that produce life or death in their own experience. Here’s one of the biggest flaws I see out there in parenting today, this whole emphasis on redirection as a total parenting strategy. I see it all the time. If your kid is upset over here or doing this you know, if they want that toy, give them another choice or, and they’re always… look, sometimes one of the best things that any of us have to learn is we have to learn to salute the word no, and realize that sometimes I don’t have an option that I want. Sometimes I don’t… you know, I’m not in control. Because they’re gonna go to work and the boss is gonna say, “I want you to do this,” and they’re gonna throw a temper tantrum. And you think the boss is gonna say, “Oh, gosh. Well, that upsets him. Well, let me find something else he likes to.” No, it’s not like that. You know, obviously we want choices and there are diversions and different choices, you can do this, you can’t do that. But you know what? One of the most important gifts you can give to your children is to learn to live within a limit and like it. When my kids were little, I remember at the parent toddler preschool, we had a great song they taught the kids. You know what it was? You get what you get and you don’t get upset.

Jim: (Laughs). That was it?

Dr. Cloud: And they learned that.

Jim: (Laughs).

Dr. Cloud: And sometimes, “Can I go do this?” “No.” And they go, “And what do you say?” “Well, you get what you get and you can’t get upset.” And it normalized, I don’t get everything I want. And we don’t have enough of that today, I think.

Jim: Well, that’s interesting. You know, the other toddler environment will be (laughs), especially if you have two kids close in age, which we did and do, is, that’s mine.

John: Mm-hmm.

Jim: You know, the toddler saying that’s mine.

Dr. Cloud: Yeah.

Jim: And how do you engage that to say well, you know what?

Dr. Cloud: Sometimes it is.

Jim: Sometimes it’s true but sometimes it’s not.

Dr. Cloud: Sometimes it’s not. See that’s the thing is the whole concept of boundaries are about our property line. Our boundaries are property line. This is your yard; this is my yard. Okay? So yeah, you’re right. That is yours. Okay, now what you can’t do is use what’s yours to step over the property line. The Bible calls that a trespass. Now you stepped into my yard with your little hammer, and you can’t go take your hammer and break out the windows in the kitchen. That’s not okay. This is your hammer. You can play in your yard, and you can do whatever you want to in this circle of boundaries. But you trespass is when you step over that line into somebody else’s property and that’s the basic concept that God has always outlined.

John: We’re talking about a number of parenting principles and getting some great insights from Dr. Henry Cloud today on Focus on the Family, with Jim Daly. And Dr. Cloud and his co-author Dr. John Townsend have written a book called Boundaries with Kids. And we have that and a CD or a download of this program. Call us for details. We can tell you more. The number is 800, the letter A and the word FAMILY. (800)232-6459 or stop by focusonthefamily.com/broadcast.

Jim: You know this is such nuts-and-bolts advice, Henry. I so appreciate it. And you know, just scribbling, making notes here myself. I hope all of you are as well, because, again, this is the right stuff when it comes to the parenting expectation, what you need to be concentrating on.

Dr. Cloud: And it’s not easy either, Jim.

Jim: It’s not, it’s work.

Dr. Cloud: Yeah. Because one of the biggest boundaries that I’ve discovered about parenting, not only the people I work with but me, is the first boundary is I’ve got to set some boundaries on my own anxiety.

Jim: (Laughs).

Dr. Cloud: Because, you know, at every stage there are things that our kids are gonna do, and actually sometimes things that they need to do that make us anxious, you know, in some way. And one of worst things that we can do, one of the worst things we can do is use our own anxiety as the value system (laughs) of what we’re gonna say yes or no to. Sometimes we have say okay, I don’t really feel good about this. You know, daddy needs a time out to go think about this.

Jim: Mm.

Dr. Cloud: Right? You know, judges go into their chambers, right? They don’t have to make decisions all at the moment. I need to go think about this. And sometimes I get off and reflect and I think, you know, this kind of worries me a little bit the more I think about. When I really think about it this is… you know, it’s not gonna kill them and this is something that they need to go do. And if they make good choices, certain things will happen. If they don’t, it won’t. But this is… I need to loosen up here and I need to deal with my own anxiety. Okay? At other times I have anxiety about that, and that’s a really good anxiety because why am I afraid of this? Because A, B, and C. Which A, B, and C should never happen and that’s where I’m gonna set a limit. But we… you know, God gave us senses and feeling. In the book of Hebrews it says this, it says, “Solid food is for the mature.” And we would all say that parenting is solid food, right?

Jim: Right.

Dr. Cloud: “Solid food is for the mature who through practice have had their senses trained to do discern good from evil.” See, God gave us senses. He gave us this feeling or no, I don’t like that, or this, you know. I see this and I don’t like it. Now I have this uneasy feeling. But those senses have to be trained. And sometimes, you know, what good parenting is about is our training our sensibilities and our senses and our insights and all this to sometimes we have to put off some of the patterns that were ingrained in us from the traditions of the elders. Jesus talked often about the traditions of the elders that are not the ways of God. And we can get things from our own dysfunctional families. You know, and I often ask an audience, “Who came from a dysfunctional family?”

Jim: Everybody’s hand goes up.

Dr. Cloud: Well, we all did because we’re all from the family of Adam.

Jim: Right.

Dr. Cloud: We’re from Adam’s family. Remember, it’s kooky and it’s crazy, right?

John: (Laughs).

Dr. Cloud: And so we’ve inherited this. And God tells us, “Look, you’ve inherited ways and generational patterns that are not good, and you must,” and this is something that we don’t often hear about. But God told the people, you know, confess the sins of your fathers, and turn from them. So if I was parented in certain ways that are good, I want to carry that forward. But sometimes I have to ask myself, what fit a different time or what was actually just wrong…

Jim: Yeah.

Dr. Cloud: … that was not good that I’ve got to be the generation that breaks that. And that’s one of the key things to parenting. Before we ever go into the parenting thing, we need our own training. You don’t send a solider off to war without going to bootcamp and training. And we got to look at our own senses and our own, our own issues first. The best parents are the one that have dealt with their own issues, so they don’t pass them on.

Jim: Well, and that’s where the resources and the tools from your efforts and John Townsend and Focus on the Family. That’s where we’re all trying to help, I think, in this area of parenting. And it’s a privilege to be able to do it. Let me get to a specific. Again, in the book you warned parents not to, as an example of what not to do, not to over identify with our child’s pain.

Dr. Cloud: Oh.

Jim: Um-

Dr. Cloud: (Laughs).

Jim: I mean, I think that’s one of the big issues today…

Dr. Cloud: Oh.

Jim: … especially for moms. Not to pick on moms, but moms have such nurturing spirits…

Dr. Cloud: And it.

Jim: …you can identify with your child. You don’t want to but talk about the danger of that.

Dr. Cloud: In the book we have a bunch of laws of parenting, right?

Jim: (Laughs).

Dr. Cloud: And one of them is the law of evaluation of pain. And it goes like this, just because someone’s screaming doesn’t mean that something bad is happening.

Jim: Yeah.

Dr. Cloud: And what that means is that in parenting sometimes you’re going to set some limits, or you’re going to have push them to do something, or you’re going to require something and you’re gonna get some screaming. And it can be in the passive version of that, tears, and pain and woundedness and sullenness, and this kind of stuff. And in the aggressive version of that it can be anger and push back and, you know, kind of fighting. Both of them have to do with a kid learning a very important lesson. They’re learning I’m not in control of the universe. That’s something that you’ll want them to know for their bosses, for their spouses, for the traffic laws, for a bunch of stuff, that they aren’t God. Now, when you do that, they are going to not like it. Okay? But that doesn’t mean something bad is happening.
I had an example of this recently. My, youngest daughter, Lucy, signed up for camp. And she’s been to camp, you know, a lot of times. But she does have a little thing. Sometimes in looking for things that are out there and a lot of separateness, and she’s gonna be away from home, she’ll get a little anxious. And then she found out about camp that there was gonna be no one there in her grade. It was a church camp. And there were gonna be no eighth graders. They were all gonna be either seventh graders or ninth graders which meant she didn’t have any friends.

Jim: Uh.

Dr. Cloud: She was gonna go to camp with a bunch of strangers. And when she first found that out, it was total melt down.

Jim: She didn’t want to do go.

Dr. Cloud: She didn’t. “I’m not going. I’m not going. I’m not going,” and all this. So, you know…

Jim: (Laughs).

Dr. Cloud: … we’re in the car because we found out at church and it was just drama and, “I don’t have to. You’re not gonna make me go.” You know, all this kind of stuff. And so I just said, “Well, we don’t know. Let’s find out. Gosh, it is scary.” You know, just kind of empathized with it and didn’t, didn’t do anything, but just, you know, “Well, we’ll go think about, you know.” “Well, no. You can’t…” “Well, you know, I know it’s upsetting but we’re gonna go think about this.” So, so I didn’t deal with it then, but I already knew she’s going to camp. And the reason she’s going to camp is because I want her to have to learn to go into situations that are unfamiliar and use her skills to make friends and to learn how to cope with that.

Jim: Right.

Dr. Cloud: She’s gonna do this.

Jim: So there was outcome you were looking for?

Dr. Cloud: There was an outcome I was looking for. Now, what I did was kind of you know, you do this in stages, right? And I’m not gonna get that across to her when’s she’s freaking out and all of her drama. But ultimately through all the discussions, you know, what I told her was, I said, “Luc, I understand you don’t want to do go and it is gonna scare you. You know, it’s gonna be, gonna be sort of scary. But I also know this, you know what? If you were unable to make friends and people didn’t like you and you were walking into something that was gonna be awful, the last thing I would do is to send you into it. But actually I believe that you can do this because you always do. And I know it scares you, but I think you’re gonna have a great time. And what I want you to do is I want you to go, and I want you to make a bunch a friends and I want you to have a great time. And when you come back, you’re gonna tell me how that went.” And ultimately, I mean, she had to adapt to the limit. Look, you paid for it. You signed up. You’re going.
So sometimes we have to… and she did not like it, especially in the beginning, but we got there. And this was interesting. As we were praying about it, she gets an email from one of the counselors at the camp that said, “Lucy, I just saw your name. You’re gonna be in my cabin and I can’t wait to do the music studio thing with you that we did last year.” And all of a sudden, you know, God provided a way.

Jim: So she got more interested?

Dr. Cloud: And she got a little more interested. But the point was I knew my job was to push her into discomfort and not allow the regression. And parents have two things you have to guard against. One is your children are gonna want to do things they’re not ready for. Don’t give a toddler the keys to the car. Okay? Even though they want to drive. So we’re go to guard them from their omnipotence where they want to have more control than they should have. But the other things are we’ve got to guard them from their regression because each new step is gonna be anxious and we got to put a limit behind them so they can’t go backwards and they have to go forward to learn the next debility, and that’s distressing to kids.

Jim: Well, it’s true. And the example, it’s a simple example but I remember when Trent was probably five, I signed him up for tee ball for the first time. So he’s my first-born son. And I’m thinking, “Okay, this is it. The beginning of the sports dad activities.” So we go and, you know, balls are going by and he’s just kind of looking around. He doesn’t want to go chase the ball (laughs). And I noticed he just has zero interest in this. It’s not that he was being defiant or anything, he just didn’t want to be there.

Dr. Cloud: Yeah.

Jim: And so I kind of looked at him and I said, “Would you rather go get a chocolate shake.” And he’s like, “Yeah. Let’s go do that.”

Dr. Cloud: (Laughs).

Jim: And so, you know, we went and did that. He’s never had an interest in baseball. He did pick up football and basketball. But I felt like I, I didn’t want to push him…

Dr. Cloud: Right.

Jim: … in that regard.

Dr. Cloud: Well, let me say something about that. Because here’s the principle. What you want is you want a kid that is an involved kid in life. Okay? Baseball might not be life giving to him…

Jim: Right.

Dr. Cloud: … but maybe music is…

Jim: Yeah.

Dr. Cloud: … or maybe basketball is. Now, if he were the kind of kid that, “I’m not doing anything. I just want to sit on the couch for the rest of my life,” that’s not okay.

Jim: Right.

Dr. Cloud: You want to limit the not doing anything. But they should have choices just the way that God gives us choices that go with our makeup and giftedness and all of that. They should have choices to go do that. What we’re not gonna allow is a disengagement from life. What we are gonna allow is exactly what Proverbs says, a person’s path comes from their heart and God directs their steps. So in your heart there’s this path and one kid loves this and they don’t like this. Now in the beginning, just like vegetables, what I want to do is I want to expose them to a whole menu and then see what they like. What you can’t do is not eat anything, but you do get to choose (laughs)-

Jim: Right.

Dr. Cloud: … you know whether you want the broccoli or the green beans sometimes. So, it’s both and, it’s not either/or.

Jim: No, that’s really good. And, you know, we’re at the end. I think, again, people can see the value of this tool, this resource, Boundaries with Kids. You’ve done a great job of identifying the core things that parents need to be mindful of and work on.

Dr. Cloud: Right.

Jim: And folks, guess what? Yeah, parenting is a job. It’s work.

Dr. Cloud: Well if I can say one more thing about identifying with the pain. You know, it’s not just that we require them to do something that’s hard for them and not have empathy for that it’s hard, because you said something earlier. Look, I’m gonna require her to go to camp in this instance, but I’m not gonna be harsh and say, “Shut up, you got to do it. I don’t want to talk about it anymore.”

Jim: Right.

Dr. Cloud: What we’re gonna do is we’re gonna require it and have empathy for how hard it is for her and say, “Okay. So let’s get a plan. What can you do when you get there? How can I help you?” And, and so we’re building the ability to perform the law that we’re requiring and that’s the difference. God gives us the law, but he gives us the ability and the power and the body and the help and the strengthening to get there.

Jim: Yeah. That’s a very good point. Let, let’s end with this one. I’m sure there’s a parent who is listening who feels that maybe it’s too late. They’re into the 15, 16, 17-year-old stage and they just have never heard this, they haven’t thought about it. These are new concepts for them and they’re feeling like the relationship with their teenager is already so wounded, so brittle that they don’t even know if there’s hope. Speak to that parent directly about what they can do to begin to change that ship even though they may only have a year or two years left.

Dr. Cloud: Mm-hmm. Well, I’ve got some really good news for you. And the good news is that you used to hear things both from scientists and psychologists as well as, you know, from the layperson, and its sort of like, well, it’s set and it’s formed early. And once it’s formed, you can’t change it. Right? This character thing and all this. Brain research has come up with a term for what the Bible, I think, refers to as sanctification and there is always growth. And, and what we know is that any age new patterns can form, it’s called neuroplasticity.

Jim: Mm-hmm.

Dr. Cloud: And that at any age we can change because if there is life brought to something, if you take a plant that’s wilted and you take a plant that as, as long as it’s not dead and you start to water it, and you start to fertilize it, and you start to do what it needs, what will you see? You will see growth. So enter into your child’s world. And here’s the other concept, what’s you’re gonna find in that 15-year-old where you feel like it’s too late is development gets arrested so you might find some toddler maturity in that 15-year-old and you might need to realize, gosh, you know, sometimes I’m not dealing with a 15-year-old, I’m dealing with somebody much younger than that that has a 15-year-old costume on. But I’ve got to understand that and I’ve gotta appropriately do with them what they need in the moment.

Jim: Wow. That is really good stuff. Dr. Henry Cloud, author of the book Boundaries with Kids. I think every parent should have this in their arsenal. Thanks for being with us.

Dr. Cloud: It’s always good to be with you guys and God bless what you do.

John: What an informative, helpful conversation. It’s given me a lot to think about in my role as a dad. And if you feel the same, get a copy of this excellent book Boundaries with Kids, which covers the 10 boundaries that your kids need most to become healthy adults. We couldn’t cover all of the content in our conversation the past couple of days.

Jim: John, this was one of those eye-opening and important conversations. It’s so vital for us to remember as parents the impact we have on our children. We may not want to look like the bad guy by implementing strict boundaries with our children, but sometimes boundaries are necessary to help guide them on their way to becoming Godly, responsible adults. And we hope you’ll request a copy of this book, and we’d love to get into your hands. If you can make a monthly pledge, that really helps us out here at Focus to do ministry together. But a one-time gift is also appreciated. And in either case, we’ll send you copy of the book as our way of saying thank you when you make that contribution.

John: Yeah. Contribute to the work of Focus today. Donate at our website focusonthefamily.com/broadcast or when you call 800, the letter A and the word FAMILY. (800)232-6459.

On behalf of Jim Daly and the entire team, thanks for joining us today for Focus on the Family. I’m John Fuller inviting you back as we once more help you and your family thrive in Christ.

 

 

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