A Strong Position of Self-Respect

Mary-Ann and Paul are retired and live close to their only son who has three boys under the age of eight. They love to babysit but find that there are expected to drop everything at short notice when her son and daughter-in-law want to go out. “As if they think, we have no life of our own”, Mary-Ann says. She is growing more resentful about this. Lately, she has made some snippy remarks to Grace, her daughter-in-law, hoping she will “get it” but the pattern remains the same. Her resentment and feeling of not being appreciated is beginning to cloud the babysitting and the relationship with her children.

Unless we set clear boundaries in a loving and consistent way, we cannot expect that other people will automatically treat us and our needs with respect. Grace cannot mind-read what Mary-Ann and Paul need. The grandparents have always made themselves available last minute. Mary-Ann will have to say something like, “If you want us to babysit this weekend, please let us know by Wednesday”. Being informed three days prior is her personal boundary. If her daughter-in-law ignores that request, Mary-Ann is free to make other plans and will need to lovingly say “I am sorry, we made other plans because we did not know you needed our help.” She will also need to extend an invitation to interact within her boundaries. “If you want to go out next weekend, we are happy to babysit as long as you let us know by Wednesday.” No apology,  further explanation or justification of that boundary is needed.

Mary-Ann is afraid that if she sets boundaries and says “no”, her son will be upset and her daughter-in-law will find another babysitter. In order to have her needs respected, she will need to be okay with the fact that another babysitter might be called. She will need to trust that she and her husband are valued and appreciated as grandparents and sitters; valued enough for her children to be willing to plan ahead. She will also need to be okay with displeasing her son. Boundaries are not meant to make others happy. Their purpose is a strong position of self-respect which in turn leads to mutual respect.

Setting boundaries is necessary and beneficial at any age. Sometimes the older generation does not hear or respect the needs of the younger generation without clear boundaries. Caroline and Mario have been married for seven years. Their children are 5 and 3 ½ years old. Caroline lost her parents when she was young. When she married Mario, she was excited to become part of a big Italian family.

What she hadn’t bargained on was the dysfunctionality of her new extended family. Despite her in-laws being generally warm and welcoming, there were, from the first moment on, also a lack of boundaries and a continuous level of disrespect for the individual needs of the family members. Everybody shared every private detail about the other family members with each other. Mario grew up used to discussing his decisions with his parents and brothers. They had an opinion about everything.

Mario’s mother is the matriarch of the household and “what she says goes”. She uses manipulation and emotional outbursts to keep everybody in line. Her habit of meddling, prying, and giving unasked advice is being tactless and crossing personal boundaries between adults. Yelling at others and threatening or guilting them into doing something they have decided not to do, are also disrespectful interactions and crosses boundaries. The father is usually quiet but when he has had too much to drink he becomes inappropriate or angry. He then acts very similar to the mother.

Different family members have learned dysfunctional ways of getting around the parent’s dictatorial ways. One of Mario’s sisters is always the poor victim in one way or another; one of Mario’s brothers lies and secretly meets his own needs to avoid arguments and angry outbursts. Those are all understandable choices to walk the path of least resistance. However, nobody can ever take away your self-respect and integrity unless you make the choice to give it to them.

Self Respect 1 Ghandi quote

Caroline and Mario have decided that they want to walk a path of honesty and greater self-respect than his siblings. That required that they set different boundaries with his family together. Mario and Caroline asked to receive a phone call before his parents would just pop over for an unannounced visit. They asked to have alone time on weeknights after they both had an exhausting day at work. They asked to spend part of each holiday with their children alone before going over to the parents’. They are discussing their matters first, making their own decisions before sharing with the extended family. They have learned that they do not need to share every decision with them.

Caroline and Mario have also learned to recognize triangles within the family which are set up to control all the family members. Whenever the mother felt she might not get her will, she would complain to one of the other siblings, who then in turn would take on the role of making the mother happy and get involved by approaching Mario. Mario had to learn to refuse these unhealthy interactions, whether he happened to be the son “fallen out of grace” or the favourite one at any given time. A healthy communication is a direct communication between the people involved. Triangles serve the purpose of pressuring a person into submission and are not a respectful way of interacting.

Initially, setting boundaries was interpreted by Mario’s parents as rejection. Fear came up for them that they would lose Mario’s love. But a surprising thing happened. Mario’s—and in extension Caroline’s—love for the parents grew once they stopped making their decisions based on making the parents happy but based on everybody’s needs, including their own. Instead of out of fear of repercussions, they spend time with Mario’s family out of desire and true love.

Boundaries are not meant to control other people. They are meant to help meet our needs and to respect each other. Boundaries always have two parts. Part one is setting or re-setting the boundaries, part two is extending an invitation to interact within the boundaries. Mario and Caroline had to lovingly re-set the same boundaries several times until the parents accepted them. They had to walk out a few times when emotions tipped over and one or both parents started to yell them down.

Self-Respect 2 Jim DeMaio quote

Each time, they walked out with an invitation to connect the next day, or when a calm, sober and loving talk would be possible. Letting somebody abuse us is hurting them as much as it is hurting us. Underneath the person’s anger is a feeling of helplessness and fear. The disrespectful behaviour comes from the fear of being unloved and rejected. Exercising control through threats, guilt and shame, gives the person the illusion of power and of being respected. They confuse fear with love and respect. True love and respect comes from an interaction which considers everybody’s needs and desires.

A strong position of self-respect opens us up to self-love and loving others, instead of fearing them. Guilt and shame keep people at a low vibration of fear and prevent true love. Mario realized that fearing his parents was not loving them. Instead of feeling ashamed or guilty like he used to so many times when he grew up, he now feels he can pour all his love into his own small family and into his parents. In order for the old dynamic of power and control to change, he had to repeatedly refuse being cast as the “bad, guilty boy” who had done something wrong.

Self-Respect 3

Mature love is strong. It is aware of the dysfunctionality that exists in most families in some way or another, and it is patient and consistent despite the choices others make. Setting boundaries and inviting others to interact within those boundaries helps to get out of and stay out of dysfunction and disrespectful interactions.


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Raising Children from Love, Not Fear

When we first become parents, raising children does not come with a manual or a class. Many of us unconsciously fall into the same parenting fears our own parents had.

We might worry our child is not smart enough to make it out there in the big world, or that he or she is too sensitive or too quiet and shy or even too confident and cocky. This list goes on. We try to give them what we feel they are lacking, making extra sure they get everything they need.

What we forget is that we see in them what we deny in ourselves, or on some level fear that we are. They show us our shadow. How often do I hear parents say “my daughter is like my husband” or, “my son is like me.” If we really felt we were perfect and complete, deserving and worthy, this would be a good sentence. However, as we are our own harshest critics, this is most of the time not a good view of our children.

With my first child, I fell into the same fears I was raised with, into the perception of lack. Just like my mother, I had a hard time trusting from the first day on that my daughter is perfect the way she was born and has everything she needs to live a fulfilling life of personal and spiritual growth.

It took me quite a few years to understand that parenting from fear means not truly parenting from love and trust. Fear eats away on joy, robs us of our connection with the Divine; fear breeds the inner critic and perfectionist who is hard to get rid of once it has made itself comfortable in our head.

Here is another lovely story of a little soul just wanting to be accepted. When the due-date arrived, the first shock that the mother had was that her baby was breech and would be born with a Caesarean. The second surprise was that the baby turned out to be a girl even though the parents had been told she was a boy. In their culture a boy was valued higher than a girl but this little soul had extraordinary parents who quickly embraced her sex and loved her deeply.

Yet, the learning for mother and daughter continues as the daughter becomes older and turns out to have a strong personality. She is smart and able to look through things. She questions people and their intentions or words. She isn’t manipulated easily. She knows what she wants.

The mother is concerned at times that she is too confident, not respectful enough, and going to have trouble later on in their culture, which still expects women to take the backseat. The daughter mirrors for the mother all those characteristics that she has as well but never allowed herself to show.

With Psych-K, we balanced acceptance on both sides. The mother balanced that she accepts her daughter exactly the way she is. Then the mother surrogated for the daughter to make sure her daughter feels completely loved and accepted as the person she is. The little girl needed to feel that she is safe and secure in her core family so that she is able to face the extended family still favouring boys over girls.

Her parents are going to be the first generation that can and will step out of this circle of fear that children need to be “fixed” to become a good little girl or a tough little boy. This wonderful soul picked this scenario for herself to overcome challenges. She picked parents who will parent from love, not fear. They are able to just let her be. I am looking forward to seeing her grow up to be an amazing woman living between two cultures and embracing the best of both.

If you are interested to do relationship work and shift your subconscious beliefs with Psych-K to be the best parent you can possibly be please contact me for a free phone consultation