My guest for this episode is life coach and reparenting expert Xavier Dagba, who is here to discuss the topic of boundaries in parenting.
We don’t tend to learn much about having boundaries when we’re young, because our culture teaches that children shouldn’t really need or have them (and those of us who are using respectful parenting approaches are working against the tide here). This then translates to us not knowing how to set boundaries as adults, and feeling ‘walked all over’ – without fully understanding why, or what to do about it.
We also talk about the limit between boundaries and limits, an important distinction as we interact with our children.
If you need more support in setting limits that your child will respect (and using far fewer of them than you might ever have thought possible – while still having your boundaries respected!), I hope you’ll join my FREE Setting Loving (& Effective!) Limits workshop that runs between December 7-11. When you learn how to set limits that are grounded in your values, you’ll hold them with confidence and you’ll see MUCH less testing behavior from your child. We’ll also introduce tools to help you find ways to engage your child’s collaboration so you can really see a shift in the emotional climate of your home.
Other resources from this episode:
Click here to read the full transcript
Hi, I’m Jen and I host the Your Parenting Mojo Podcast. We all want our children to lead fulfilling lives, but it can be so hard to keep up with the latest scientific research on child development and figure out whether and how to incorporate it into our own approach to parenting. Here at Your Parenting Mojo, I do the work for you by critically examining strategies and tools related to parenting and child development that are grounded in scientific research and principles of respectful parenting. If you’d like to be notified when new episodes are released and get a FREE Guide to 7 Parenting Myths That We Can Safely Leave Behind, seven fewer things to worry about, subscribe to the show at YourParentingMojo.com. You can also continue the conversation about the show with other listeners in the Your Parenting Mojo Facebook group. I do hope you’ll join us.
Hello, and welcome to the Your Parenting Mojo Podcast. Today we’re going to talk with a guest about a topic that I’ve been thinking about a lot lately, which is on setting limits and boundaries. We’ll talk about the difference between a limit and a boundary. Because this has really profound implications for our parenting. We tend to think of limits as something that brings more control, and we want to have control. So, we want to have those in place so we can feel like we’re on top of this parenting thing. But for some reason, we tend to be really sloppy in our boundaries. We have a hard time accepting that we’re even worthy of setting boundaries, never mind holding them. So, we’re going to talk through this today with my guest, Xavier Dagba who’s a life coach who focuses specifically on these kinds of issues.
But before we get to that, I wanted to let you know about a free one week Setting Loving and Effective Limits Workshop that I’m running starting on Monday, December 7, I actually normally sell a version of this workshop for five bucks, and you have to work through the content by yourself. But this is a rare opportunity to do it not only for free, but to get my support while you’re at it. In the workshop, we’re going to come at this topic from a bit of a different perspective than many of the conversations I see about it. We’ll ask yourselves, what if things seem a little out of control at the moment not because we don’t have enough limits, but because we have too many? And if that’s the case, how can we decide which ones you maybe don’t need anymore? And how can we know that our kids weren’t run riot or walk all over us if we don’t have as many limits in place? Because there are tools that can make this so it doesn’t happen and they aren’t super difficult to use, but most parents I work with have a bit of a hard time getting up and running with them because they’re just so different from the way that we might have parented in the past.
When we set a limit, we’re holding the power ourselves. But we’re also holding all of the responsibility. We aren’t allowing our children the freedom to make their own decisions and have their own ideas about things that might work, even though while they’re young, they will still need our help refining these. We’re not talking about abandoning all limits entirely, we’re still going to prevent our two-year-old from crossing the street by themselves, and we’re not having complete free for all in our home. But far more often than you might think possible in this moment, right now, our children are actually willing and very able to work with us to find solutions to the kinds of problems that currently seem to require us to set limits. The key is to know how to identify those situations and navigate through them in the moment, when it seems like the only thing you can do is set a limit.
It’s almost paradoxical that the more we give up needing to have a sense of control, the more we invite our child’s cooperation, and the more willing they become to work with us. And I’ve seen this happen in the children who are the most difficult and the most hard to reach and the ones who seem like they just need us to control their environment. And when we instead connect with them, and we asked for their ideas on how to solve the problem we’re having in our relationship, they’re actually quite able to do this. They want to work with us. They don’t like being antagonistic and difficult and having so many negative interactions with us. They crave our love and positive attention and the more we can set up our environment to invite them to be successful, rather than planning for them to fail, the better off our child will be and the less stressed we will be as well.
So, if this sounds like something you can use in your life, head on over to YourParentingMojo.com/limits and sign up. It’s completely free and we’ll start together on Monday, December 7. Once again, that’s YourParentingMojo.com/limits.
Hello, and welcome to this episode of Sharing Your Parenting Mojo. I’m here today with Xavier Dagba, who is a life coach and an incredible all-around human being. Welcome, Xavier! It’s so great to have you here.
Well, thank you. Now, I have to live up to that expectation.
I’m sure you’ll be fine. I wonder if you could tell us just a little bit about yourself and the topic that we’re here to discuss today, which is kind of on setting limits and boundaries and how those things fit into our lives.
Yeah, this is really interesting. And a little bit about myself. Right now, I’m a life coach. And before doing this, I’ve been a wellness coach, I’ve been a PhD student not in psychology or anything like that but in economics. This was over seven years ago, and I had the wakeup call moment where I was invited, I had that impulse for several years to just let go of the field of statistics economics to dive into something that would help people even more, but I was resisting it. So, in 2013, I had that huge awakening of like, this is not really where I want to be in my life, this is really not what I want to do with my life. And I dropped out. And then it began a long cycle of searching for something new, you know. Really what I wanted to do, how I wanted to help people, [I] began taking courses and classes and, you know, certifications and learning as much as I could to get to a place where I feel like, okay, I can really help people shift in their lives
And the journey of beginning to set boundaries was, you know, really important for me, because when I decided to let go of the PhD career, or perspective of becoming a professor in economics, I got a lot of backlash. You know, from my family, I live in Canada now, but most of my family still lives in Africa. And they saw it as a huge, huge betrayal. And even for myself, it felt like betrayal to a part of myself, because I had, you know, you work hard to get a scholarship for a PhD, you really work hard to get there.
You know, and then at some point, you just like this, isn’t it? This doesn’t make me happy, and I let that go. So, there was that divide inside. And also, I got to a place for the first time in my life, I was the biggest deception, the biggest disappointment to my parents. Now, which was new to me. So, learning how to navigate that learning how to be like, “Okay, I need to rebuild myself, and I need to rebuild myself without their approval.” This is how this began, because I needed to create space between them and me, so that I could navigate that. So, this is how I started diving into this, I literally had to go. And this is not something that I am recommending to anybody. I went through a period of two and a half years without really talking to my family.
You know, without having interactions with them. And I can arguably say that this is what I needed to kind of come back to a place where I have a secure footing about who I am. And if people ask me, was there a better way from where I stand right now? Then, I can say absolutely, yeah. And if I had known earlier how to say, how to speak my truth, that boundaries create limits, it wouldn’t have happened. It wouldn’t have been two and a half years. Maybe six months, you know?
Yeah. Oh, my goodness, it makes me think of when we’re thinking about raising children. and they exhibit behaviors that we find really difficult. And it’s so tempting to think, well, if they just changed the behavior, then things will be better. And, and if we can reframe that, and think you know what the child is doing the best they can with the tools that they have, just like you were doing the best that you could with the tools that you had, and maybe it wasn’t the optimal path, but it got you through. And maybe we can look back and see, “Oh, yeah, there is a different way.” And now we have this insight that we’re going to – by the end of this call, we’re going to have so much insight – that we are going to be able to maybe set limits, set boundaries in a different way than they were set with us and maybe that we’ve been setting them until now. So that we can have a different relationship with our children, and that they can have a different relationship with limits and boundaries than we have had. And they have had until now.
I absolutely love that. And you know, that being into becoming a parent, it increased that. It amplified a desire to actually become better at communicating, period, because I was really bad. I wasn’t the best communicator. Jen, the reason why I shut down communication with my family for several years. And communicating everything, you know, what I find when it comes to boundaries and limits, communicating everything, meaning, where you allow yourself to go truthfully, how much to allow people in your life, truthfully, as well, is really what we are learning through all of that. And this is really beautiful. And being able to reflect that to my children was a really great driving force, for meet those steps even more into this word.
Yeah. Okay. So, I wonder, can you help us understand because I think this is something I’ve only sort of really began to tease out more recently, the idea of the difference between a limit and a boundary. Can you tell us how you think about those things?
How I think about these things is really interesting. And for everybody who listens to this, I’m inviting you to just take what resonates with what I’m going to say what really makes sense to you and see if it works in your own context, in your own life – is an invitation that I would have for you. Now, the way I see a limit, a limit is more like some a rule, it feels more like a rule that you’re giving to others meaning here, this is how far you are allowed to go, this is what you are allowed to do in this setting here. So it feels more like there is a certain position of authority when it comes to setting limits, you know, and a good example would be in a family, when you are a parent, you will get to set the limit to how your house is working. You know, bedtime for the kids, that’s the limit. You can say noise in the house, or the amount of like, screen time that you choose to give to people. So, there is that relationship with authority there, where you get to set the limit. And it’s something that is not really discussed about it’s like not really, to a certain degree, maybe not negotiated, because you are the person in authority, there is that authority aspect in the limit. And he doesn’t necessarily, you know, the example of parent and kid is obvious. You know, but we also get to set limits with like, with the other relationship, but they will look more like some sort of rule that you would give to the person coming into your space. Like this is what you are allowed to do into this space. When we are interacting together, this is what you are allowed to do here. So, this is how I see a limit. And we could go into more example there.
A boundary is really how far you are allowing yourself to go, the way I see it. You know how far you are allowing yourself to how much you’re allowing yourself to show up in a specific situation. And a few examples of boundaries would be, for example, with family, and this is a huge one for me that I had to set for, you know, for a long time, I need to be given notice, if you’re going to come home. I need to be given a notice, like a call at least three hours or even a day in advance. This is one day in town; I need a three-hour notice like I need to know that I need to prepare myself to receive you. You know so, and if that is not there, I reserved myself the choice to tell you it’s no working. I’m not available. You know, so I’m not. Basically, it sounds like I won’t necessarily be available for you if you do not give me notice before you come home. You know something like that. It’s really you are declaring how far you willing to go. So that’s an example of how I can bring it. And we can refine it even more and refine it even more. But I feel when it comes to limit and boundary there is a position of authority with the limit. It’s like there is more authority there. And the boundary is more how far am I allowing myself [to] really go here?
Yeah, yeah, I love that distinction. And as you were talking through the limits that you set, I mean, it’s so personal. All of this stuff is so personal. We don’t set a limit on bedtime for my daughter. And I mean, we gave up on that when she was I don’t know, two and a half or three or something. And she tells us when she’s tired and when she’s ready for bed. And so many parents have struggles with, you know, how do I get my kid to stay in bed at bedtime? And well if there is no limit around that you don’t have that struggle. And so yeah, I think limits can invite struggles. And so when we’re thinking about limits and parenting, I think one of the easiest things to do that seems so counterintuitive, is we feel like we need the sense of control and limits are going to give us that control that we feel that we need, when actually, if we can see our way to relaxing some of those limits to relaxing that sense of control, then all of a sudden, things get easier. And we just don’t have fights over bedtime over you know, you need to stay in your room, you need to do X, it’s bedtime it needs to happen now, we have stories at a set time. And that sort of part is prescribed and then she can have quiet time for as long as she likes. Sometimes she says right after story time and ready for bed now. And she did that last night and she was up at 630 this morning. Other times she has energy, and she wants to be up until 10. And that’s fine that she sleeps in later the next day. And so, the limit there by making that limit go away, we just I mean really so much stress [has been removed] from our own lives. So, it’s so personal about where we decide to set these limits on things because clearly you set limits in a different way than I do even.
Absolutely. And on that point, I just want to say, you know, what’s the most important thing for you, you know, as a parent, and you mentioned something that’s really important to hear. Not only you having the peace of not stressing out about imposing the limit, but also, when you try to impose a limit, the other person still gets to challenge the limit or not.
You know, even if it’s the child. So, the other person gets to challenge your limit or no. So, what matters the most to you? Is it winning? At that authority battle, or is it really having a situation where the child understands that, okay, my needs are taken into consideration here, you know, my energy is taken into consideration here, also, that I don’t get frustrated, get taken into consideration here. And it might change depending on the context. Now, we talked about going the bed, you know, like, apply it to something else to another role in your life. What really matters here? What happened in the past when you try to set the limit? What has been the response? Because, arguably, you know, when we parent, the child needs quite a bit of structure. But what is the cost of the structure has well, please, really important to get clear, the cost for you, you know, what is it costing you to impose the limit? Do I get all the stress? And just like, if I’m not able to get this rule passed I’m not a good parent, strong enough parents? What is really the cost for you? And also, what is the cost for your child? You know, what is the programming that you’re really enforcing here? And it’s really important to get clear on that, you know.
Yeah, yeah, for sure. And because there’s that control, and this this kind of societal narrative around parents needing to be in control, I think that we will often feel well, yeah, I’m entitled to set limits. This is my job as a parent to be in control. Whereas I think it’s a little bit different around boundaries, right. I know, I struggle, and I think a lot of mothers particularly struggle with setting boundaries around self-care time and taking time that isn’t dedicated to work or to childcare. And it seems as though there’s kind of a lot there to unpackage in why that is, like, why do we just have such a hard time, making time for ourselves and setting boundaries and other ways that we know feel right to us.
It is so crazy, and I will say how first, it got modelled to us. In childhood, that parents, our mothers should take care of themselves. We have the narrative of this self-sacrificing mother, that is just crazy all across the board, I would say. You know, in almost, at least in my own experience, the cultures that I’ve had the chance to collaborate with, that was a narrative that was always present – the mother just like self-sacrificing. You know, putting behind on needs, in order to take care of the needs of the whole family first. And that’s something that has been present, we grow up seeing that we grew up seeing mothers doing that. I grew up seeing my mom waking up at 4am in the morning to cook for the family before she goes to work. And she did that for years. For years. She wakes up 4am cooks, you know, she has still, you know, really tired, but she cooks, because she has to go to work so that when we come back home, the food can be there. So, she did that for years. So, we get trained into seeing that and even expecting that from mothers. And mothers themselves, expect that from themselves. Like, okay, I need to fit into this narrative of the good mother. This is what a good mother is.
And the other thing is, there is also a story of approval. And it’s crazy how has parents, we seek approval from our own kids. And this is also part of feeding into that narrative of the good parents. If my kid loves me, if my kid likes me, I am a good parent. If my husband likes the way I treat my kids, because he is expecting me to self-sacrifice to put the kids first, then I’m a good mom, you know. So, we buy into these narratives and we are just groomed, seeing all of that. And we embody that. So it’s extremely hard to get out of that to begin to prioritize your own needs as a parent, because first, you are judging yourself, you are paddling yourself, you are battling your own conditioning, and you are battling the conditioning that is being reflected at the same time by your kids. Maybe just make the expectation of your own family, society, your husband, your partner. So yeah, that’s what I can say about it.
Yeah. And it seems as though there is even deeper stuff as well, right related to the ways that we were attached or not attached to our family of origin?
Oh, absolutely. Absolutely. And if we’re going to go into that, which is really interesting, we often replicate a model that we’ve observed. We often get to just like replicate model, then very often it’s very unconscious. We try to replicate the model. And something that I’ve also found sometimes is I get to work with some parents, and we have this pendulum kind of behavior. If they grew up in an environment where the parent was extremely distant, you know, the parent was neglecting wasn’t present, emotionally present as Well, usually we try to go all the way from the other side, like, my mom could never do this for me, my mom was never there to give me appreciation or anything, you know, to nurture me, so I’m just going to do it the exact opposite.
My kids are never going to have the experience that I had.
Absolutely. And then, because of that narrative, because of that inner rebellion, we end up also engaging in the behavior that is not necessarily empowering for the kid, and for ourselves. And we end up diving into self-sacrificing, again, to make sure that the kid doesn’t go through what we went through.
Yeah, there’s so much of this tied up in I think it’s probably a fear of abandonment as well, right. And just the connections that we had or didn’t have, and the way that they hurt us, and how that shows up in the work that we’re doing today as well.
Absolutely. Like, fear of abandonment is major is the central problem. Well, problem is the central theme, when it comes to limits and boundaries and even codependency is a central theme. You know, why does it take away all what is something that you gain, when you are actually self-sacrificing? You know, you get to receive some sort of positive feedback, like you get to avoid feeling that same abandonment that you felt growing up, you know. So, we do that in order to cope and when we look at it, self-sacrificing, in my opinion, is always ever a coping mechanism. Our self-betrayal is always a coping mechanism because we fear abandonment. I need to do this for you so that I belong. I need to do this for you so that I have the approval. I need to do this for you so that you see me have the good mother. I need to do this for you so that you think I’m a good mom, and you love me. I need to do this for you so that you don’t reject me, because if you reject me, I’m going to feel again, you know, that initial wound that hasn’t been addressed yet. You know, and I need to do everything I can, so that I don’t go back there. So usually, that is the driving force, we are avoiding that initial pain that we felt, and therefore we need to please we need to betray ourselves.
Ugh, I have goosebumps. Yeah. So, it seems as though in a sort of where do we go from here? approach? There must be two parallel strands of work right there. There must be a how do I understand more about what are those things that are causing me to self-sacrifice to not be able to do this? And then secondly, there’s the well, how am I going to do this moving forward? Do you see it in the same way?
I absolutely see that. It’s like there is that awareness piece, like, Okay, I need to understand what has been driving this behavior, you know, that’s the first part of it. And now understanding is not enough, you know, knowing that this is what had been driving the behavior is not enough, there is a huge important part of life. As soon as we see a behavior that we judge or we deemed not appropriate, we have that tendency of wanting to hit ourselves in the head. You know, understanding when you understand where it came from, you also need to understand the driving force the pain that you were trying to avoid. And therefore, compassion is needed. I have never ever seen somebody heal from punishing themselves enough. I’ve never seen that. You know, I’ve never ever seen anybody make radical change from just beating themselves up. You know, I’m looking for it. You know, I’ve tried to do that. For long, it destroyed your relationships. You know, I tried to beat up on myself, shame myself. It never worked. So, there is that necessary piece of just like acceptance. Okay, this is where I’m starting from. You know, instead of beating myself up from this for this, I understand this is where I’m starting from. And this comes, this is here, because of the conditioning that have been true. It’s not because there’s something wrong with me, it’s certainly because you know, this is how I was raised. It’s not because I’m a bad mother, it’s not because I’m a bad parent. It’s just because I was raised this way. And having acceptance for where you start, in my opinion is so crucial. And also having acceptance for the fact that you might go back exactly here several times. You will make progress, and then come back there again, progress, and maybe come back there again, several times is also a very needed because, unfortunately, growth is not that all healing is not that linear journey of like, Okay, I got the problem. I’m going to change it; I’m going to fix it. Done!
Gosh, it’s like parenting, isn’t it? I mean, how was potty learning at your house? And you’re probably still in it, aren’t you? We think it’s going to be this linear thing. And all of a sudden, there’s a switch, and their child’s going to be out of diapers one day, and does it I mean, for some parents happens like that. And they tend to write blog posts about it. And then then when there was, when it doesn’t go like that, we’re like, what happened, it wasn’t like that, for me that we were out of it, we were in it, we were out of it, I don’t know. And then all of a sudden, suddenly, we were using the toilet.
Oh, my I love that. I really love that. So, it’s really necessary to understand here it’s a multi layered. You know, it’s really important. So, having that acceptance is compassion, piece, and also validation piece, that, okay, this is where I get to start. And because they need, first of all, the healing happens at many levels, there’s like that wound, that emotional density that was created when the abandonment was felt growing up, it needs to be released, because as children, we don’t know how to navigate pain. We have no concept of how to deal with that. So, releasing the emotional child, sorry, the emotional charge, I want to say the same story that we created. You know, my parents abandoned me, therefore, I must be bad. There must be something wrong with me. It as kids we create stories of shame in order to deal with the fact that parents couldn’t meet our needs the way we needed to; you know. My parents were emotionally neglecting me therefore, there was something wrong with me. There cannot be something wrong with the parent has a kid because we can’t even make concept we can’t even understand it.
Yeah.[It’s] too scary to admit, right?
It’s scary to admit that parents are just imperfect humans as well. So as a child seeing this loving persona that’s your mom or your dad it is something that you can’t even integrate. You know, but assuming I’ll just like welcoming that truth – that as much as they tried, they did the best, your needs were also met is very necessary to begin to bridge the gap. And then you can begin to understand Oh, it’s not because there was something wrong with me. It’s not because I was bad. It’s not because it’s not because they just have no concept, how to actually meet my needs the way I needed to. And I feel like that part, having completion with that is really extremely necessary. And as you have completion and then allow yourself to, I want to say purge the shame, which is really important because all these emotions that your brain has no concept how to deal with when you are so young, are stored in the body. And there’s a great book about the trauma is stored in the body. I forgot, right, right now the name of the author, just like yeah, it’s stored in there. When you allow yourself to purge it that would be in my opinion, the first step. The second step is actually okay, now I kind of cleaned myself, I kind of cleanse, it is really necessary to rewire. Because we just get practice is to practice even when you are aware of it. It’s just the program, but I do it first my child comes screaming for something that is really mild, you know, I’m talking about something that is actually doesn’t require you to solve. To do something in the moment. Your child just really upset about something, but you were, let’s say involved into doing something else. And you just panic immediately and run. This can be something that you just internalized the program that is running, and then it’s going to be necessary for you to disrupt the program install a new one, like okay, this is happening and you know, what is the new response that I’m choosing in this moment? You know, is the need of this child here extremely real? Is it something that I really need to stop doing what I’m doing right now in order to tend to? And sometimes when you allow yourself to think about it rationally to just question it to question the conditioning, sometimes you understand that right now running to that is not really necessary, and you get to actually respond in a different way.
So, the rewiring piece, and learning how to voice especially voice, which is the most complicated part, voice, the new boundary. Voice, where did you, because the boundary is where they should expect you from now on. And that’s another way I see the boundary. This is telling people where they can meet you from now on, is really necessary. You know, when you’re feeling frustrated, because of this, and I am, for example, on the call, you know, wait a minute, or just like wait for 10 minutes that I finished this call, and then I’ll be with you. This is how I can share this with people now.
Mm hmm. Yeah. And I think the book you’re thinking of is the body keeps the score. Is that right?
Your Body Keeps the Score!
The Body Keeps the Score.
Yeah, Bessel van der Kolk, I think is the name of the author. Yes, it’s an excellent book. And I was curious as, as you were talking about through the you were talking about a cognitive reframing strategy. And I was also thinking about kind of a physical awareness, like many of us are learning for the first time in our midlives that our bodies have information for us about our experience, and that we didn’t know about that we didn’t know to pay attention to until somewhat recently. And so what you’re describing is a cognitive reframing process, and I’m wondering about that, and thinking, Okay, is that because what my body is telling me is so kind of baked into, it has all of this stuff that’s been going on for years, and it doesn’t know how to kind of reappraise this based on this new information that I now have about boundaries? And what I know about where they came from, and that kind of thing, like, is it has my body been tricked in a way? Or do you think that there is if we can tap into, Yes, there’s a cognitive element, but also, our body can tell us the truth, our truth of what’s happening right now. And that if we can pay attention to that we can know, you know, is this something I need to deal with right now? Or is this something that I can put a boundary on in some way that will serve me better? Where do you stand on that? What do you think about it?
I love that question because it is so crazy how the buddy wants to work with you, and the process is really interesting. How the body wants literally to assist you in the process. Yeah. And what comes up first, is there is a necessity to amplify, you know, to practice even more emotional awareness. What am I experiencing now? Because most times, this is a feedback of the body. What am I experiencing? What am I feeling? Why do I feel tension in my body? What is present within me? And what I found out is very often, a good signal that a boundary is needed, is resentment.
In my opinion, a good signal that a boundary is needed is resentment. And resentment often happens when you have you know, unspoken expectations, like this is something that I really wanted but because I’m afraid to be betrayed, I don’t speak about it. Because I’m afraid to be disappointed, I’m not going to voice it. You know? So therefore, feel resentment when the person didn’t actually meet the expectation. We feel the resentment there. And the resentment is a signal that the thing that you actually wanted, but that you didn’t voice, it is really important to let it be voiced, to let it be heard. And also, to let it be heard in a way that people also know where you are willing to go if the expectation is not met. And this is really how your voice. You know? You allow yourself to work with that emotion, the resentment that comes up. It’s like, Okay, what is this signaling? What am I experiencing and what is it really telling me here? And what I found out is, resentment is always a signal some way somehow.
You crossed a line. And you did make a boundary heard to people. And also, something that I found out is especially about anger. What I found out is when it comes to limit, anger can be a signal it can be not all the time that a limit hasn’t been set. Somebody crossed something that is extremely fundamental for you. And you know, it hasn’t been really set. And I often say anger is a is a signal that your power is leaking somewhere. You know. We know that your power is leaking somewhere. So, let’s say, at the house, having your children bringing or having a party past a certain time is something that you really don’t want to experience. And somehow it happens, and you feeling that anger worked up. So, there might be a huge invitation there, to have that limit hurt even more, you know, and then for us maybe even more, at least in the house, like this is really something that is not happening here. You know? So, working with the emotions is really, it’s really a way to receive constant feedback from the body. Mm hmm. constant feedback from the body is some sort of GPS, oh, I want to say, EPS, if we’re going to use emotionally, emotional positions, positioning system, something like that. It allows you to know, really, I am standing in integrity here, or I am not. Shame is a signal that you are creating internal divide. You know, you are telling a part of yourself that you are bad. And this is what kids do, they create the divide with the part of them that wanted the need that had the need, and like having this need is bad, because they are not willing to meet you to meet this part of me so this is bad, and then we create shame in the divide.
So, with shame, there is always an invitation to create inner reconciliation. With resentment, there is an invitation to pick a boundary. And with anger sometimes, you know, it might look like this is not an absolute, of course, you know, in might look like, Okay, my power is leaking somewhere here. This limit hasn’t been heard, and I get to do something about it. So, there is that new way of collaborating with the body. And having that awareness and then moving into what is the new behavior that I can begin to practice? What is something that I can begin to practice in order to create new pathways here, so that this new way of seeing things, of speaking my truth, of making sure that my needs are heard, becomes second nature? So, this is really how I would invite people to think about,
Yeah, and maybe if I can make it something that becomes a regular part of my practice, that my child can then take that on, and can grow up understanding what boundaries are. And without that divide of the walled off piece of ourselves that’s there and that we kind of don’t want to acknowledge because it was too hard for us to admit that there could be something that was so unlovable about ourselves that we just kind of put it in a box and don’t talk about it.
Absolutely. And what you touched on is so important, because in family, there is something that we often call which is enmeshment. And we kind of in this family setting, I confuse my mom’s feelings for my own because we are so enmeshed. My mom is angry, therefore I’m angry, or my dad is sad, therefore, I’m also sad. You know? And it’s, it gets really hard to make the difference between what I’m experiencing, because it’s coming from me, and what I’m experiencing, because, you know, my mom, or my dad, or my brother or my sister is experiencing it. And when somebody in the family system is willing to actually begin to set boundaries, you are giving permission, even if you don’t make the conscious effort of teaching them. You are actually disrupting the enmeshment when you are willing to say, you know, I am sad right now, but it is my responsibility to deal with it. You know, you don’t need to come and try to fix me. You don’t need to come and try to. I am working on. You know. This is just an example.
You give a huge amount of freedom without seeing it, they might feel in the moment like abandonment in the moment because they are used to being enmeshed. But when you are willing to set the boundary, you also at the same time, give them the possibility to embrace emotional autonomy, which is huge when it comes to setting boundaries, which is huge when it comes to Okay, this is what they are going through. I’m willing to let them go through that. Basically, you are giving them the opportunity to give you the space. And giving you the space creates actually, also the space they need to learn emotional autonomy. Okay, this is just what mommy’s going through the moment. Okay. It doesn’t feel good yet at the moment, but I’m willing to work on this. I’m willing to accept that. Next time the child comes and the mom repeats it again, you remember I told you when I go when you see me like this is just because I’m working through this, it has nothing to do with you. And then the child really integrates that, Okay. I get now what she’s going through, it has nothing to do with me. I can feel safe. When mom needs this space right now. It has nothing to do with me. And this is crucial for kids to see. And to hear at times that, okay, this behavior here really has nothing to do with me. When she needs space for self-care. It really has nothing to do with me. Actually, this is for me, because when she’s happy, I’m happy.
Yeah. And I guess the critical point there is that we have to be telling the truth when it has nothing to do with the child, right? Like if, if we are mad at the child, if we’re telling the child, I’m not mad at your darling through gritted teeth. Yeah, we’re not telling a lie to the child. Like, we may acknowledge that, and I’d be curious as to how you would phrase this, but maybe it would be something like, I’m super frustrated that that thing happened. But my frustration is not your responsibility and I’m going to cope with that, would that be how you would handle that?
Well, handling it is really, in the moment, will usually what I invite people to do is, you know, to handle it in the best of your ability. Because sometimes it is very, very hard to get back to a place where you are centered after expressing frustration is extremely hard. So, the invitation that I have for people is really just to do it. And then to have a completion conversation. Because ideally, we would love to be like, I really didn’t appreciate the way what you did there. Like, really, this is something that doesn’t sit right with me. You know, and I just need you to hear it. It’s important for me that you understand it. It’s important for me eventually that to understand why. But it is my job to deal with the frustration. It is my job to navigate that in releasing that and giving the message to the child even if they do something that creates some frustration that they don’t have to fix you, I think is really important that they understand that they need to take responsibility for what happens is very necessary, in my opinion that they understand that, okay, I created this thing. How can I take responsibility? How can I make sure it doesn’t happen again, and if there is something that I did in this situation that I can make amends for, or maybe repair eventually, if it’s something physical material, like I created a mess here, I get to clean the mess on the floor, or something like that, that is something they can do. But doing something that so that you and I believe this is the most important thing for parents to see that the child understands, okay, there is a shift that needs to be made here. But I don’t really need to go ahead and try to fix my mom and try and begin to overcompensate. Because the other compensating behavior is something that in the future in their adult lives, will get them to stretch beyond who they truly are in order to also get approval. It’s another way to just like get approval after you’ve done something wrong. But really having the conversation or letting something heard. I truly didn’t appreciate what happened there. Or how this thing unfolded and doing it in your own way. And sometimes we are so aroused, that it is hard to be so centered. When we press it to completion conversation, it sounds like you know that they… I showed up this way, I talk to you this way. And I mentioned how I was frustrated about this thing. I need to make sure that you understand it is something that’s very important to me. But also, I don’t want you to stay with the belief or the thought that I don’t like you because of this, that I hate you because of this, that you’re a bad child because of this. I just needed to make sure that I truthfully communicate with you and I tell you what is going on for me. Because if I don’t, I am going to be angry at you silently and it never goes well. Something like that, you know. And really you create that opening for a child to navigate conflict in a way that doesn’t feel like the end of the world. You know, you are really creating that opening to express even though the negative emotions in a way that the child understands, okay, I can go through this. And it doesn’t mean that there is something inherent, like something broken in me or something broken in the relationship. It doesn’t mean that if you get angry at me, it’s broken. Because usually, kids grow up with that narrative. I need to do everything I can to avoid having this person angry. And if the person gets angry… Oh, so.
Okay, so I’m just wondering, as we wrap up here, we’ve covered so much ground. And we’ve given parents so many tools to use. And I’m just wondering for a parent who’s coming to this, and this is kind of the first time they’ve thought about this, and they’re super new to this, where would you start? What would be the first thing you would advise somebody to do?
Oh, the first thing, of course, would be aware. Would be why am I acting this way? Where has this behavior been modelled for me? And understanding that part, like, how have I conditioned to express myself this way to behave this way, to say that a mom should behave this way? Or to think that parents should show up this way with my child? How was I conditioned to see things this way? And what’s even deeper? What’s even underneath that? You know. Is it because I’m afraid of like, being rejected? Is it because I’m seeking approval? Is it because I want to control? Or is it because I want to feel safe here really? Because as parents, very often, we also want to feel safe. And really understanding what the driving need of your own behavior is, is because I want to feel approved of. I want to feel like I belong. It is because I wanted control. I just want to make sure that things are done right. It’s really important for me that things are done the way they need to be done. Or I just need to feel safe here. You know? Need to feel safe with my child. Needs to feel safe with my partner. What is the driving force here? Am I doing this because if there is any sort of chaos in the house, I feel extremely unsafe, therefore, I need to control, therefore I need to do something else?
Really understanding what is driving your own behavior, and really pondering what would happen if you showed up in a different way. Like really just like thinking about it. What would happen if you did things differently, and maybe even experimenting with that? What would happen if I really let my voice be heard right now? What would happen if I really prioritize what I want from now on? What would happen if I try to create a bridge between, okay, this is what I want and I know it doesn’t get to be all the time either or either self-sacrifice or I meet my need. You know, there is always that possibility for a beautiful middle ground. And sometimes that possibility looks like, I hear you, honey, but mommy’s going to take care of that in an hour, okay. You know, sometimes it looks like that. Sometimes it looks like I hear you, we’re going to work on that. But just not now. You know. Not just now. And beginning to practice that and beginning to have to keep these little appointments with yourself. The 10-minute walk, you know, away from the house. This is only your time and negotiating when it’s possible. And maybe you know if this is your situation, and now away from your kids, even if it’s only once a week, just having that time for self in beginning to nurture again, that relationship with both and beginning to know again, okay, what do I truly need, because we get sometimes to care so much about other people and we forget about what turns our lights on. You know? What really makes us happy. Like going from there from that awareness place to understanding that it’s not either, or we get to do it together in a way that everybody can have their own sense of fulfilment in the family dynamic. You know. And really beginning to have some practices for me, before my kids wake up, and even some time when they’re in the way. I’m going to put a band on my face, they are going to be in the same room. And I really am going to do my best to meditate. Some people often tell me this is stupid. But this is just a signal from me to myself, that my need to have this 15 minutes in the morning that I take for myself, even if my son is awake, because he’s usually the one that wakes up the family, even if he’s awake is important. You know, and then I often do that, even if he’s in the room. And sometimes, weirdly enough, he sits down next to me. He doesn’t say a word.
You will be surprised how willing your family and your people can be open to work with you. When they understand that something is really important for you. You would be amazed to see how loving they want to be for you.
Wow. Well on that note, thank you so much for sharing this with us. And I think it’s such a profound practice. Even just acknowledge that this is a thing and to start working on this. Can you tell us where listeners and people who are watching on YouTube can find more information about you? And where can they follow you?
Oh, I am very active on Instagram.
People love you on Instagram.
I’m really active there on my website XavierDagba.com and on Instagram is @XavierDagba. I’m really working on because so many more people have asked me to create a YouTube and talk more about things like this on YouTube. So, this is coming. This is coming very soon. I don’t have a date yet. But it might happen very soon. And yes, very soon on YouTube, people will be able to see more of this. But just to listen to a podcast that I’ve done about, you know, boundaries, or parenting and stuff like that, all the links are on my Instagram link, and people can see it from there.
Awesome. Yeah, we’ll put links to those on the references page as well. So, thanks again for talking with us. It was such fun and such a pleasure to talk with you.
My pleasure, Jen. Thank you for having me.
And so listeners can find all of the references for everything that we’ve talked about today, including Bessel van der Kolk’s book and that links to Xavier’s website and his Instagram and we’ll put the YouTube up there as well when it arrives, can be found at YourParentingMojo.com/boundaries. And before we wrap up, don’t forget to go to YourParentingMojo.com/limits to sign up for the FREE Setting Loving and Effective Limits workshop. It starts Monday, December 7, you’ll get my support to go through it. And again, you can sign up for that at YourParentingMojo.com/limits.
Thanks for joining us for this episode of Your Parenting Mojo. Don’t forget to subscribe to the show at YourParentingMojo.com to receive new episode notifications, and the FREE Guide to 7 Parenting Myths That We Can Leave Behind and join the Your Parenting Mojo Facebook group. For more respectful research-based ideas to help kids thrive and make parenting easier for you, I’ll see you next time on Your Parenting Mojo
About the author, Jen
Jen Lumanlan (M.S., M.Ed.) hosts the Your Parenting Mojo podcast (www.YourParentingMojo.com), which examines scientific research related to child development through the lens of respectful parenting.