When you ask someone what he or she wants or needs, they usually begin by telling you what the DON’T want.
“I don’t want my ex to speak poorly of me in front of our kids.”
“I don’t want the kids dropped off 15 minutes late at every exchange.”
“I don’t want to receive 15 emails or texts a day telling me everything I do wrong as a parent.”
“I don’t want to destroy our children’s childhood experience because we can’t stop arguing.”
“I don’t want to have our kids worried about where their mom and dad will sit on their wedding day.”
“I don’t want to fight anymore.”
Very few people can actually tell you want they DO want. Even when pushed, they will tell you what they don’t want. And when you focus all of your energy and attention towards what you don’t want, you end up attracting just that, everything you don’t want.
Boundary setting (AND implementing) requires you to first figure out what you DO want/need.
“I need to feel safe in my home knowing the other parenting isn’t going to walk in unannounced.”
“I want our children to be well adjusted adults.”
“I need to create effective communication strategies to ensure our children’s needs are always met.”
“I need to be less angry/anxious.”
A client of mine was concerned that her children’s father was continuing to walk into the marital home unannounced, even though they had been separated for over 3 years. The father felt that because he was contributing to the mortgage and utilities, he had every right to walk into ‘his house.’ It was imperative that she create (and implement) a boundary to ensure her wants/needs and safety were respected.
The “WANT/NEED” – to have the children’s father call or knock before entering the house rather than walking in unannounced.
The “BOUNDARY” – a conversation with the children’s father around the confusion it creates for the children when their dad walks into the house unannounced when the kids know their parents are separated. It’s sending a mixed message.
The “IMPLEMENTATION” – Once the boundary conversation has taken place, you must ensure you follow it. You MUST! MUST! MUST! follow the boundary you created. If you slip, even once, your boundary will be discredited by the other parent and not followed.
The “FOLLOW THROUGH” – if you put a boundary in place, are firm in it’s implementation, and it’s still not being followed, you will need to create consequences for the boundaries not being followed by the other parent.
“The BOUNDARY” – a conversation with the children’s father around the confusion it creates for the children when their dad walks into the house unannounced when the kids know their parents are separated. It’s sending a mixed message.
The other parent continues to walk in unannounced.
The “CONSEQUENCE” – the children find it confusing that you continue to walk in the house unannounced even though I’ve requested you call or knock first. My next step will be to change the locks should you continue to walk into the house unannounced.
If the other parent continues to walk in unannounced after the “Consequence” conversation, you must follow through and change the locks.
Creating boundaries will do nothing to move your situation forward if you do not implement them completely. This is why it’s vital that you fully understand your wants/needs, you will have greater power (willpower) to follow through on the boundaries you have created if you are clear on why you created them in the first place.
Andrea LaRochelle is a Registered Family Mediator & High Conflict Separation & Divorce Strategist in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. She is also a High Conflict Institute/New Ways for Families trainer and provider. Andrea's goal is to help clients make high conflict co-parenting manageable, while allowing parents to focus on their children. Her expertise is in providing clear and effective strategies, parenting and communication plans specific to each person's situation. Read more about Andrea at http://andrealarochelle.com/