What? Freedom with Boundaries?

Image of happy woman with outstretched arms standing in field

I listened as my friend lamented her situation.  She was having parent struggles.  Not issues between her and her children, mind you, but issues between her and her parents.  The issues were not only impacting her but affecting her kids as well.

“I just don’t know what to do!” Lisa remarked.  “I love my parents and I want to honor them as a daughter.  But they don’t seem to want to respect that I am an adult and have my own family now.  I know they want to spend time with our kids, but why can’t they visit when it works with our schedule?”

It was obvious Lisa was not only hurt but frustrated beyond belief.  “They called last night to tell us they would arrive the second week of May and are staying until the end of June.  I had already told them I was fine with them coming, but I would prefer they would come after school is out and stay two or three weeks.  They didn’t listen to a word I said!” she pulled a tissue from her pocket to wipe the corner of her tear-filled eyes.  “They’ve already booked seats on the flight that are non-refundable.  I’m stuck with them for six weeks!”

“Lisa, I can tell you are upset.  I’m so sorry you are having to deal with this.  Tell me why you struggle so much with them coming?”

“They take over my world when they come.  They not only parent my kids, but they parent me!  I don’t do anything right according to them.  How dare I let Kiersten wear that outfit to school?  You let Ava wear makeup?  She’s much too young for that.  Then there is the house–I don’t keep it clean enough, and my husband should help more, and I should fix different meals, and my kids should do more chores.”


“My mother once told my 11 year old daughter that she would look so much better with bangs and short hair.  She always likes short hair on girls and they are so much prettier that way (according to her).  Before I knew it, Amber had taken the $10.00 bribe from her to cut her hair with bangs.  All Amber had talked about for months was growing her hair out so she could have a ponytail for the summer.  Instead she cut it off to please Grandma and was miserable afterward.”

Some of you may be laughing at the story thinking that it can’t possibly be true while others are wondering what other stories I know about your family.  LOL!

You’ve felt Lisa’s pain.  

But my question to you is, “Where are your boundaries?”

As I talk to Moms, many times I discover that Grandma is “in charge” when she visits and sometimes when she isn’t even in the room.   

What do I mean by “isn’t even in the room”?

She is in our head.

With every parenting decision we make many of us think…

“how would my mother respond?”

“or I can’t let my child do that–what would my mother think?”

My question to you is “Are you listening to God’s voice or Mom’s voice?”


Sometimes we need to set boundaries for ourselves (like being discerning in whose voice we listen to) and sometimes we need to set boundaries for what can take place in our home.

Sometimes (like Lisa’s situation) it might include having conversations with grandparents–which is not always easy.

However, if done well, these conversations cannot only help push the reset button on our parenting, but also help us establish the right relationship between us and our parents and our parents with their grandchildren.


 1 Corinthians 13:11

When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man (or woman), I did away with childish things.

So what might those conversations look like?

  1. Make sure the conversation takes place where you think you’ll have the best results.  Face-to-face conversation is good if your mother isn’t one who will try to manipulate you with tears or angry words.  It gives her an opportunity to see facial expressions that show that you really care about her.  If you think she might get antagonistic and you won’t be able to deal with it, the phone might be better.
  2. Start the conversation out on a lighter note that isn’t accusatory.  If you were Lisa (in a non-threatening tone), “Mom, I know there must be a good reason you went ahead and booked the ticket.  Tell me what you were thinking.”  (Let her talk…)  “Do you remember me telling you that it would be best to come after the kids are out of school?” (Let her talk…)
  3. Head into the real reason for the conversation carefully.  Think truth in love.  “One of my concerns with you coming in May is_________.”  (Let her talk…) “I’m also concerned that staying here six weeks will hurt our relationship and your relationship with your grandchildren. (By this time she might be upset.)  “I know you probably don’t mean to, because I know that you love us, but typically you tend to turn into the parent when you come to visit.  It makes me feel like I’m a little girl not doing everything right.”
  4. Negotiate.  For Lisa, flights were booked.  Maybe she could suggest staying with others in the area?  Or maybe someone she knows is on vacation and her parents could house sit?  Look for options that could be win-win.  Maybe  there is a phrase that Lisa and her mom could agree on that would be a cue to Lisa’s mom when she starts “mothering” while she is there.
  5. Take a Break if necessary. If the conversation gets emotional–pause.  “Mom, I can tell this is upsetting you.  Think about what I’ve said and we’ll talk another time.”  Sometimes that pause gives the other person time to process what we are really trying to say.

Being the in-between generation isn’t always easy, but as Dr John Townsend says in his book Boundaries with Teens, teens will develop self-control and responsibility to the extent that their parents have healthy boundaries.”  Sometimes those boundaries need to be established with our parents so that our children see that we are not only protecting them but ourselves as well.

Dare you to look at the relationships that impact your home.  Is it time for conversation?

“Let go…and let God,”








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