While sitting at the park with my kids, I can see all of the numerous very important lessons that we as parents teach our kids about relationships.
One day, I watched as a little girl about 9 years old was fighting with her friend and had walked away from her. The other little girl was crying, and the little girl’s mom was chastising her for abandoning her friend. Her daughter started to cry, saying “Mom, I just needed some space.” Her mom told her to stop crying, go hug her friend, and play with her immediately or she would call her dad to take her home immediately.
My daughter Mia watched the whole thing unfold, and remarked that when you need space, you need space, and that she thinks the mom could have handled it better. The mom wanted her child to “play nice,” and thus she taught her daughter that it was not ok to cry, that her needs didn’t matter, and that she was responsible for someone else’s feelings.
Sometimes, we have responsibilities to others that we can’t neglect, like taking care of our children or going to work. Other than things like that, we have a lot of made up obligations that we either place on ourselves or allow others to give us. These can be things like family events, answering the phone, going out to dinner with a person we don’t really want to spend time with, or watching a TV show with our spouse when we’d rather read a book. When we do things against what our heart really wants and needs, we tell ourselves that our needs and feelings are not important.
Teaching kids how to always take care of themselves and do what makes them happy is probably the best life tool we could ever give them. This includes helping them determine how to navigate the decision between what is an expectation or obligation, and what is in their highest good at that time. This is empowering.
And for those of us who as adults are still learning how to hold our boundaries, we can learn to say “no.” No is a complete sentence. Interestingly enough, when we learn to take care of ourselves and hold those boundaries, people don’t violate them as much. And the anger, frustration, self hatred, guilt, and feeling taken advantage of can stop.