I love boundaries. I used to think that I had good boundaries. I stuck up for myself and I confronted issues I had with people. Then, I started martial arts and I quickly started realizing that I sucked at setting boundaries! One of the biggest things I learned in my training was how to set boundaries in a more effective way (usually before the problem even happens). Of course, this takes a lot of practice but is so much more effective!
One thing that I've realized is that I often use sarcasm or give unsolicited advice. This has caused me a lot of problems with relatives and loved ones. When someone is telling me about a problem, I have started asking myself if they are asking me for advice or just venting. Often, they are just wanting someone to listen and they are looking for support. Most of the time, they can figure out the problem on their own and don't need me at all (hmmm....imagine that!?)
Here's an example.
Let's say I have a teenage daughter that is hanging out with some friends that I don't think are good for her. She begins to tell me about some of the things they are doing that aren't particularly healthy. If I begin to tell her what she should say then I am robbing her from being able to process the situation on her own. Instead, if I ask her what she thinks she should do about the situation then I am preparing her to better handle difficult situations on her own and not depend on me.
As difficult as this is for the parent, it's essential for kids to begin to figure things out on their own and gain the self esteem they need to feel good about the decisions they make (and have someone encouraging them). In addition, this will make it easier for her to come and talk to me next time without feeling judged. This is true not only for communicating with teenagers but for adults as well.
What I have learned recently is that I need to practice these kinds of conversations with many people in my life. I often put myself in situations where I am giving unsolicited advice without even realizing it. I am learning to stop myself and simply listen. If people come to me with the same type of problems that they put themselves in again and again, I am starting to limit my interactions with them. I am not cutting the relationship off but I am detaching with love and giving them the freedom to grow (if they choose!). For example, limiting conversations to once a week or once every 2 weeks can be a good thing for everyone involved when someone is in a unhealthy situation.
I truly believe that using these boundaries has helped make my relationships with other people more authentic and much more pleasant (just ask my husband!) Also, I have learned that focusing on my own goals and priorities instead of others has made me a happier and healthier mom and individual.
Do you have other ideas/ways that help you set healthy boundaries with your loved ones?