Boundary #1: Don’t P*ss Off Mommy

“Mommy, will you smile at me?”

So asks my eldest, after she’s been particularly rotten all afternoon.  It’s not the first time she’s asked me this.  Usually, I try to wipe the scowl off my brow and give the most convincing grin I can muster.  I continue to be firm, but do so gently, smilingly.


Lately I’m not so sure it’s worth my effort.

I’ve been reading (slowly) the book Boundaries by Henry Cloud and John Townsend.  They discuss, among other issues, the idea that parents should avoid making their a child feel “responsible for her parents’ feelings.”  This leads to “a sense of overresponsibility for others and a lack of attunement toward her own needs.”

At the same time, parents should “allow[] a child to experience age-appropriate consequences.”  Also, children need to learn to “respect the limits of others.”  “Children need to be given the grace of having their no respected, and they need to learn to give that same grace to others.”

If you act like a brat, you piss off Mom.  If you piss people off, they act pissed.

Is that such a bad lesson to learn?

As Pat put it, “It’s simple cause and effect.”

I know I must avoid hitting my child out of anger, yelling in her face, giving the silent treatment, withholding love.

But I don’t think I have to pretend to be happy when I’m not.  I don’t think I have to shield her from the law of cause and effect.

Yet at the same time, I want her to know that she’s not responsible for my happiness.  She’s sensitive, despite her stubbornness, and she feels the chill between us once she’s pushed my buttons too many times.  I can tell how sad it makes her, and that breaks my heart.

But it doesn’t change the fact that I’m fed up with her and I’m most decidedly not happy.

I’ve taken to telling her.

 “Sweets, Mommy will always love you, and I will always take care of you.  Even when I’m upset.  But when you and your sister are naughty, it makes me grumpy. . . . But I still love you even when I’m grumpy.”

It’s all I can do.  That, and put her to bed.

Thank God It’s Bedtime.




Linking up with Housewifespice for What’s We’re Reading Wednesday.

13 thoughts on “Boundary #1: Don’t P*ss Off Mommy

  1. Too funny, I am currently reading this exact book. My impetus in buying it was a visit from my mother-in-law that nearly put me over the edge, but it’s also been incredibly helpful for my husband in regards his co-workers and boss, and for both of us with parenting.

  2. i’ve been around kids whose mother never gets mad at them. let me tell you, it is not much fun. they have no concept of how their behavoir affects other people, or how to respect other people’s boundaries. be angry, says i. “be angry and sin not.”

    • Also (I just can’t stop thinking about this), I’ve never had trouble with the idea that my kids need to experiences consequences for their bad behavior (punishment, withholding privileges, whatever). But I had this presupposition that I needed to do it with a serious but basically emotionless facade. Now I’m questioning that, and it’s very freeing. Although, still, I know I can’t get out-of-control angry, and that’s easier said than done.

  3. My mom has the ability to be Ice Queen Mommy and growing up I feared that more than a spank. On the one hand, there were times when I agonized over whether I was personally responsible for her moods, but on the other hand, it was great for behavior modification. I’m not saying she was manic depressive or emotionally distant or anything, it’s just when she’s pissed or upset, you know it and it’s not fun! Anyway, I completely agree with Annie above about moms who never get mad and kids who never know when they’ve crossed the line. My big pet peeve as a preschool teacher was kids always interrupting to ask (very important to them!) questions about EVERYTHING. I would finally get a handle on it during class, and then their parents would pick up and want to talk to me and the kids would interrupt and the parents let them! Kids need to know how to behave, not only for our sakes as parents, but for the world’s sake. We’re bringing them up to leave us and survive and thrive in the world, after all.

    • Agh, yes, I hate it when kids get away with interrupting! Of course, it’s easy to cave b/c they’re so persistent. I agree, we do them a disservice if we let them get away with rude behavior.

  4. Actually, it seems to me, up to a certain age (and I mean even beyond adolescence) children seem to think they are responsible for their parents moods. Children and adolescents are most usually, I think, so self-absorbed that they believe the world revolves around them. I remember once in an elementary ed class, learning how an infant feels this way – when they’re laying on their back on a blanket on the floor, for instance, and see the breeze make the curtain flutter, the baby thinks THEY made it flutter and when they want it to happen again and it doesn’t, they cry.

  5. I’ve been meaning to read that book, Laura, for about 10 years! Now I will definitely read it since it has your endorsement!

  6. Pingback: A Book that blew my mind | This Felicitous Life

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